Feature of the month March 2010
BIBLICAL CITIES Series
by Charles James Mason & Co.
The views featured in this series are all cities that are mentioned in the Bible, thus the collector-assigned name given to the grouping. The series, produced by Charles James Mason & Co., has the identical border as Mason’s “NAPOLEON” series and is very similar to the “TEXIAN CAMPAIGNE” series, by Anthony Shaw, James Beech and Thomas Walker. There probably are more views than those listed here. To date, pieces have been seen in pink, black, blue, brown and green. Source prints for this series were taken from Landscape Illustrations of the Bible by Rev. Thomas Hartwell Horne, published in two volumes by W. & E. Finden. These views are known:
1.“Antioch in Syria” Cup plate, 3.5 inches
2.“Damascus” Platter, 13.75 by 11 inches
3.“Hebron” Plate, 8.75 inches
4.“Laodicea” Plate, 7.5 inches
5.The Mosque of Omar
7.“Nineveh” Plate, 6.75 inches
As mentioned above, the “Damascus” view bears the backstamp of “The Mosque of Omar” which is located in Jerusalem, while the source print for this view is titled Damascus. This curious fact leads this author to believe there must also be a Jerusalem or Mosque of Omar view, although no such view is now known. Only the C. J. Mason firm knows how many views exist! Since the view is not titled on the platter, as other views are, this title is collector assigned. The “Mount Zion” view, “From Micah iii, 12…,” is referenced in Barber, Anglo-American Pottery, 1901, page 151.
One of the world’s most ancient cities, Hebron was built “seven years before Zoan in Egypt” (Numbers 13:22, Genesis 13:18). It was also known as Kiriath Arba (Genesis 23:2). Hebron is located twenty-three miles southwest of Jerusalem and Bethlehem on the main road to Beersheba. Although the city is located in a shallow valley, it is actually 3,050 feet above sea level, and 4,300 feet above the water level of the Dead Sea, to the east.
The Hebrew name for the city is derived from haver, or friend, a description of Abraham, the Patriarch, who was considered the friend of God. Al-Khalil, the Arabic word for friend also refers to Abraham (Ibrahim), who Muslims similarly describe as the friend of God.
Abraham lived in Hebron when he initially arrived in Canaan and, reportedly, witnessed the destruction of Sodom from there. Upon the death of his wife Sarah, Abram, who God later renamed Abraham, purchased a burial cave and the adjoining field, reportedly paying an outrageous 400 shekels of silver to Ephron the Hittite. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob/Israel and Leah are all buried there. A large building, surrounded by a stone enclosure, was erected above the double cave. The structure, known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah, is supposed by some to have been built in the days of Solomon, while others believe it to have been the time of Herod.. (The meaning of Machpelah is double cave.) For thousands of years, the Cave of Machpelah was a mystery; in 1859, an attempt to determine an entrance to the cave was made, from an opening between the tombstones of Abraham and Sarah in the temple. Used over the centuries by Christians, Jews and Mohammedans, the structure is currently a mosque.
The Cave of Machpelah has a long and rich Jewish history. Jews have lived in Hebron continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke and Ottoman periods and revere the city as one of the four holy places in Judaism (along with Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias). David was anointed King and reigned there for seven years.
See additional photos at Bible Places
The backstamp from the “Hebron” plate reads: “HEBRON LIES ABOUT 30 MILES FROM JERUSALEM, ABRAHAM LIVED NEAR AND WAS INTERRED WITHIN THE CHURCH BUILT BY THE EMPRESS HELENA TOGETHER WITH JACOB AND OTHER PATRIACHS. THE SULTANS OF CONSTANTINOPOLE FURNISH CARPETS FOR THE TOMBS OF THE PATRIARCHS,
WHICH ARE OF RICH GREEN SILK EMBROIDERED WITH GOLD. HEBRON WAS ALSO THE ROYAL RESIDENCE OF DAVID. 2 Saml II l.v. 4. 9.”
“Hebron” ~ in this detailed view of the Hebron plate from the Biblical Cities series by C. J. Mason & Company, one can see the name “Hebron” at the base of the left foreground rocks. The structure in the view is the Machpelah or Tomb of the Patriarchs, purchased by Abraham as a tomb for wife Sarah.
The source print for the “Hebron” view, from the BIBLICAL CITIES series by Charles James Mason & Co., was this W. Finden engraving, entitled “Hebron / Mosque erected over the Graves of Abraham and the Patriachs.” The drawing was taken from an image “Drawn by D. Roberts from a sketch made on the spot by Mrs. Bracebridge.” Biblical scriptures cited on the print are “GEN. XXIII, 25” and “I CHRON. III, 12, 13.” The engraving was published in London in 1835 “by John Murray and sold by C. Tilt, 86 Fleet Street.”
The Tomb of the Patriarchs as it appears today. See also Bible Places for pictures of the Mosque, including the mosaic ceiling added by Crusader artisans..
“Napoleon Passing the Alps” ~ 7 inch plate, in purple, also by C. J. Mason & Co. Note the similarity in the border used on this plate and that used on the “Hebron” plate.