Luigi Mayer was a watercolourist and draughtsman. He was born in Germany, and lived for several years in Rome where he was taught by famed printmaker, Giovanni Battista Piranesi. In the late 18th century Mayer was employed by Sir Robert Ainslie a British ambassador to the Ottoman Porte, to produce drawings in Asia Minor and the Near East.
The drawings commissioned from Luigi Mayer, were used to produce coloured aquatint plates by Thomas Milton, printmaker, topographical draughtsman, who was the great-nephew of the poet John Milton.
When Mayer produced these images, Britain and France were vying for control of colonial territories, and these works captivated and informed audiences in Europe about the country’s culture and political structures. After Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798 Mayer’s publication became a bestseller when first sold in Britain in 1801.