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Home > Archive > Russell Page Archive: Mohamed Sultan’s Garden, Giza

Russell Page Archive: Mohamed Sultan’s Garden, Giza

Russell Page’s designs for a garden at Giza in Egypt include not only plans for areas of trees, flowers and lawns but drawings for a fountain and a garden pavilion, both of which incorporate the arabesque forms of Islamic architecture.

  • Giza, Garden Plan, No.1

    RP/1/21/1/5

    1948

    42 x 54 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A dyeline design dated 1948 with added pencil sketches, marked ‘Jardin à Guizeh, Avant projet no.1, echelle 1/ 200, Vilmorin, Paris’. The plan shows the entire site, with the house with two wings at the centre. The garden is divided into separate areas with trees and flowers. Changes made with pencil suggest that the swimming pool was abandoned in favour of another small garden, with four formal beds divided by paths.

  • Giza, Garden Plan, No.2

    RP/1/21/1/3

    1948

    42 x 43 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 1948, marked, ‘Jardin a Guizeh, Avant projet no.2, echelle 1/200, Vilmorin, Paris’. Presumably an alternative design for the gardens, with the various areas arranged slightly differently to RP/1/21/1/5. Given that ‘Garden Plan, No.1’ (RP/1/21/1/5) is marked ‘Bon’ – and is similar to the other plans – it is likely that it was the design chosen, not ‘Garden Plan, No.2’ (RP/1/21/1/3).

  • Giza, Garden Plan

    RP/1/21/1/4

    [1948 or 1949]

    34 x 48 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A dyeline design marked, ‘Jardin à Guizeh, echelle 0.05 PM, Vilmorin, Paris’. Instead of the swimming pool indicated in ‘Garden Plan, No.1’ (RP/1/21/1/5), a ‘jardin de madame’ (it is likely that the design of this was later changed to that shown in the pencil sketches on RP/1/21/1/5 and the ink drawing RP/1/21/1/11). Undated, the original reference numbers suggest that this drawing came after RP/1/21/1/1 and so would have been drawn up either in December 1948 or early 1949.

  • Giza, Planting Plan

    RP/1/21/1/2

    [1948]

    31 x 91 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated pencil design on tracing paper, showing the layout for the upper sections of the garden. Ficus nitida is suggested in many places.

  • Giza, Sketch of Fountain

    RP/1/21/1/6

    1948

    40 x 51.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil sketch on tracing paper dated 1948, marked ‘Fontaine, Jardin a Guizeh, (A) sur plan’. Three different designs are shown. The main one is made of white marble, with two smaller drawings of other options: one with ’ceramic tiles of blue, green yellow’ (‘tuiles en vieille faïence bleu, verte, jaune’) the other a ‘Baroque fountain with large stone mouldings’ (‘Fontaine Baroque avec grosse moulures de pierre’).

  • Giza, Rough Sketch of a Fountain

    RP/1/21/1/9 (2 of 2)

    1948

    27.5 x 38 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A rough pencil sketch of a fountain. Undated, its less finished state suggests it may have been drawn before RP/1/21/1/6.

  • Giza, Sketch of Location of Pavilion

    RP/1/21/1/8

    [1948]

    51.5 x 85 cm

    A pencil sketch on tracing paper, marked, ‘Pavilion à l'angle du jardin vu de la terrasse’. It shows the pavilion located in the corner of the plot as seen from the terrace (‘à l'angle du jardin vu de la terrasse’; as in RP/1/21/1/3). The structure was subsequently moved slightly, and an approach of small trees, paths and flowerbeds leading to it was added (as seen in RP/1/21/1/9 (1 of 2) and RP/1/21/1/7).This version of the pavilion design appears to be constructed of trellis, with a note that the pavilion to which it refers (one close to the Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile, see RP/1/21/1/7) was made of plaster (‘originale en plâtre’). Undated, it is likely to have been drawn shortly before or at the same time as RP/1/21/1/7.

  • Giza, Garden Pavilion

    RP/1/21/1/7

    1948

    39 x 50 cm

    Pencil drawings on tracing paper dated 1948, marked ‘Mohamed Sultan, Jardin (B) sur plan, Pavilion après un vieux pavilion d'un jardin près Manial el Roda’. The designs for a pavilion (marked ‘kiosque’ on the plans) looked to the architecture of the Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile.

  • Giza, Rough Sketch

    RP/1/21/1/9 (1 of 2)

    [1948]

    27.5 x 38 cm

    A rough pencil sketch of the pavilion. Undated, its similarity to RP/1/21/1/7 suggests it may have been executed around the same time.

  • Giza, Garden Sketch Plan

    RP/1/21/1/10

    [1948 or 1949]

    43 x 60 cm

    An ink design on tracing paper, marked ‘Mohamed Sultan’ (in pencil). The plan of the site, although not complete, is very close to RP/1/21/1/4. Undated, it is likely to have been executed in 1948 or 1949.

  • Giza, Garden Sketch Plan

    RP/1/21/1/11

    [1948 or 1949]

    52 x 55 cm

    An ink design on tracing paper with pencil drawings, marked ‘Mohamed Sultan’. It shows a more finished plan of the site than RP/1/21/1/10. Undated, it is likely to have been executed in 1948 or 1949.

Property belonging to Mohamed Sultan, Giza, Egypt

1948

Archive of Garden Design Ref: RP/1/21/1

When Russell Page was asked to design this garden in Giza in 1948, he already knew Egypt well. From 1943 to 1944 he had been stationed in Cairo, having been recruited by the Political Warfare Department during the Second World War (he worked mainly on propaganda). In his introduction to The Education of a Gardener, Page evocatively described his time there:

‘In the Gizeh zoological gardens, a nineteenth-century extravagance in the form of a romantic park made by the Khedive Ismail, was a magnificent collection of trees and plants, all new to me, also a series of serpentine ponds thick with lotus, loveliest of all aquatic plants. As to the fauna, what I remember best was the lustrous slate-grey plumage of the saturnine-looking shoebill, a rare wader from Upper Sudan, and a pale pink seagull. In Cairo itself there were all the marvellous mosques to explore and sometimes I would sit quietly in one of them listening to a sheikh chanting verses from the Koran – every sound vibrant with meaning and devotion. In Cairo in those days there were still traces of a more frivolous and charming architecture: palaces, kiosks and fountains in the Turkish rococo manner which dated from the early nineteenth century.’ (36)

Both a kiosk (also referred to as a pavilion) and a fountain are incorporated into Page’s design for Mohammed Sultan’s garden. The drawings for these are beautiful; a reminder that Page originally trained as an artist at the Slade in the 1920s. He looked to the local architecture as a guide, making particular reference to the Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile. Their final positions within the gardens – which wrapped in a horse-shoe shape around the house – ensured both the kiosk and fountain were focal points. Perhaps not surprising given Page’s love of water in the garden, the fountain was eventually placed directly in line with the rear entrance of the house, to be viewed across an expanse of lawn (as seen in RP/1/21/1/4). Smaller garden areas, with beds of flowers and tree groves, radiated off this central lawn so that a series of separate rooms was created.

It was one of the projects which Page undertook whilst working in partnership with the Vilmorin company, the Paris-based seed producers active since the 18th century. Page had been invited by his long-standing friend André de Vilmorin to join forces with his family’s firm after the Second World War.

Literature

Page, Russell. The Education of a Gardener. Harvill, 1994.