Bardiyah (Bardia) Masterpiece


Last updated
May 2007

This remarkable mural was photographed while I was in Libya 1960 to 1962.

The title is now known to be " Pleasures of Avarice - Pleasures of Art "

1 2 3
The mural filled one wall of a room in Bardiyah, a harbour town close to the border with Egypt.


The mural was purportedly produced with boot polish by a prisoner of war, using fingers, matchsticks and the like.
(see update page.)

If it is still there (2004) it will have deteriorated even more than it had in the 19 years between it's creation and my visit to the town.(see update page.)

It is now some 62 years since it was produced.

Inexperienced photography resulted in badly lit and slightly out of focus pictures, which were all taken from the left end of the wall.
The resulting parallax error can be seen, where the right end has less height than the left, and slopes.

At a little over the age of 18, I saw the mural more as a curiosity than appreciating it for what it really is...
a masterpiece.
How age changes one's perspective!

Stitched version
Stitched version

The photographs are a very poor substitute for the awe inspiring vision when first seen in full sized reality. The true beauty and fine detail was clearly visible to the naked eye, from across the room.

The following enlargements are a poor attempt to convey that detail and share this experience.

I am not an artist, in fact I cannot draw a decent circle, let alone hope to interpret the artist's intended meaning or thoughts.

It would add great interest and be of benefit to all viewers, if people with artisitic insight were to generously offer their Comments to this page.

It is becoming increasingly unlikely, but...
was anybody now viewing this page, present in this room at the time of production?

Just below the skulls at the top left of the mural is the inscription...

J. Brill   R A S C   21  4  42 ?
(see updates 1 page.)

J Brill

A Private John Frederick Brill (4617871) 5th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment
died in action 1st July 1942 at the very young age of 22,
fighting for his country in a far off inhospitable land.
He was buried at the El Alemein War Cemetery.
He was the son of Frederick and Eliza
from Wanstead in Essex.

The above would seem to suggest that he left captivity during the intervening nine weeks.
When did he append his name and how long did the mural take to produce?
Could it have been done in this short time or did he sign it when finished?

(see update page.)

The window A person can be seen at the window in the top right corner, seemingly observing the scene.

Is it his girlfriend, wife or mother looking out for his return?

How long did it take to produce the realistic detail in the brickwork?

Money The detail in these Bank of Egypt coins and bank notes must have taken many hours to perfect ...and repeat.

It is a pity that the labels are not readable.
Is the music Bach perhaps?

This could almost have been a real newspaper pasted on the wall.
The paragraph settings and indenting are perfect. Is it in fact a copy of an actual issue sent with a Red Cross parcel?
There seems to be a specific interest in boxing. Maybe he represented his regiment.

From masks to heads to skulls? Or the other way around! These seem to form a bottom layer to the other items.
The skulls perhaps represent death witnessed in the desert war, or is there something deeper?.


This site is under construction.
There will be more enlargements of areas of the mural.
Recent photographs have been provided by kind friends and contacts in Libya.
For more recent photographs (2 years ago) of this mural and the surrounding area including the old prison
plus many photographs and very interesting information on other murals,
War Graves and sites and travels in Libya, please visit
top e-mail Reminisce