David Roberts RA (24 October 1796 – 25 November 1864) was a Scottish painter. He is especially known for a prolific series of detailed lithograph prints of Egypt and the Near East that he produced during the 1840s from sketches he made during long tours of the region (1838–1840). These, and his large oil paintings of similar subjects, made him a prominent Orientalist painter.
It was J.M.W. Turner who managed to persuade him to abandon scene painting and devote himself to becoming a true artist. Roberts set sail for Egypt on 31 August 1838. His intent was to produce drawings that he could later use as the basis for the paintings and lithographs to sell to the public. Egypt was much in vogue at this time, and travellers, collectors and lovers of antiquities were keen to buy works inspired by the East or depicting the great monuments of ancient Egypt.
Roberts made a long tour in Egypt, Nubia, the Sinai, the Holy Land, Jordan and Lebanon. Throughout, he produced a vast collection of drawings and watercolour sketches.
Muhammad Ali Pasha received Roberts in Alexandria on 16 May 1839, shortly before his return to Britain. He later reproduced this scene (apparently from memory) in Volume 3 of Egypt & Nubia.
On his return to Britain, Roberts worked with lithographer Louis Haghe from 1842 to 1849 to produce the lavishly illustrated plates of the Sketches in the Holy Land and Syria, 1842-1849 and Egypt & Nubia series. These were printed by the publisher F.G.Moon, of Threadneedle Street in London. Roberts funded this expensive undertaking through advance subscriptions which he solicited directly. The scenery and monuments of Egypt and Holy Land were fashionable but had hitherto been hardly touched by British artists, and so Roberts quickly accumulated 400 subscription commitments, with Queen Victoria being subscriber #1. Her complete set is still in the Royal Collection.