These four watercolours, showing ancient ruins located in and around Jerusalem, were commissioned from the Italian artist Luigi Mayer by Sir Robert Ainslie. Ainslie was the ‘British Ambassador to the Ottoman Porte’ (the Ottoman Empire, of which Constantinople was the capital) from 1775 to 1793. He was also a collector and antiquarian, and he employed Mayer to record ruined structures throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Luigi Mayer was described as 'Roman by birth'. However, little is known of his early life. His family may have come from Switzerland, before later settling in Rome. He is thought to have been a pupil of the Accademia di San Luca and an assistant to etcher and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Mayer probably left Rome for Naples and Sicily in the early 1770s, when he reputedly worked for the King of Naples. By 1778 he was employed by Prince Biscari, a Sicilian collector and antiquarian based in Catania. It may have been at Biscari's residence that Mayer was introduced to future patron Sir Robert Ainslie, British Ambassador at Constantinople. Mayer later established himself in London, where he published several series of aquatints.
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