Egyptians Raising Water from the Nile

Artist: John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London)

Date: 1890–91

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 25 x 21 in. (63.5 x 53.3 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Francis Ormond, 1950

Accession Number: 50.130.16


Sargent visited the Middle East several times in connection with a series of murals on the theme of the history of religion, for which he had received a commission from the Boston Public Library in 1890. Traveling in Egypt in 1890–91, he painted this canvas, which shows a man using a simple irrigation device called a shaduf to fill a ditch, from which others are drinking and waiting to fill containers. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist may have believed that life in the region was essentially unchanged since biblical times.