What time Ierusalem that Cittie faire, Was sieg'd and sackt by great Vespasians heire Canaan's Calamitie, Jerusalem's Misery ; The dolefull destruction of faire Ierusalem by Tytus, the Sonne of Vaspasian Emperour of Rome, in the yeare of Christ's Incarnation 74 (1598) Wherein is shewed the woonderfull miseries which God brought upon that Citty for sinne, being utterly over-throwne and destroyed, by Sword, pestilence and famine.
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The subject is taken from the History of the Jewish War by Flavius Josephus (AD 37/38-100). Riding on his dapple grey, Titus, the son of the reigning Roman emperor, sees with horror how against his expressed will the Old Testament prophesy of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon comes true. The chaos of the dramatic plot is set by Poussin within a well-ordered framework. In its rigorous form, in the spatial clarity where everything has its proper place, this work is witness to the decisive turn that Poussin made towards strict Classicism, relief-like composition and sober colouring as well as towards a precise definition of the figure within space. The painting was commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who presented the work to Emperor Ferdinand III on behalf of his uncle, Pope Urban VIII. Was it intended as praise for the victory of Ferdinand over the Protestants at Nördlingen (1634) or as criticism over the conquest and plundering of Mantua by imperial troops (1627)?
Chief Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks
The National Gallery - 28 April 1999
The first is set more than 2500 years ago, in the wake of the
destruction not of the Second Temple but the First. The Book of
Psalms, in words still engraved on Jewish hearts, has left us an
indelible image of the feelings of a devastated people, exiled from
their land, and remembering home.
Looking at it, we are immediately struck by something odd, all the more so in the context of his second painting of the same theme, in 1637, where the centre of the composition is strewn with the corpses of the defenders of the city. What is odd about this painting is that it portrays a Jewish tragedy almost without Jews.
This is an extraordinary and enigmatic passage. What does it mean?
Nicolas Poussin at Artprice. To look at auction records, find Poussin's works in upcoming auctions, check price levels and indexes for his works, read his biography and view his signature, access the Artprice database. Nicolas Poussin, the greatest French artist of the 17th century, is considered one of the founders of European classicism, a movement in art, based on antique and Renaissance heritage. Poussin was born in Normandy, in Les-Andelys, in 1594. The son of an impoverished family, Poussin received some early professional training at home. In 1612, Poussin left for Paris, where he entered the workshop of the mannerist painter J. Lallemald. The training was reinforced by independent study of, mainly, Italian art in the Royal Collections. By the end of the 1610s Poussin became an authoritative master, the evidence of this are his commissions for the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, and the big altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin. Unfortunately from the works of the first Paris period (1612-23) only drawings based on Ovid’s Metamorphosis survived.
In 1623, the artist came to Italy, first to Venice, where he enriched his French training with the sensuous splendor of Venetian painting. And in 1624, he came to Rome, where he stayed all his life, except for his trip to Paris in 1640-42. Poussin’s new friends in Rome were mainly classical scholars, who played the main role in turning Poussin into a philosopher, erudite and intellectual. The 1620s in Italy were years of intensive learning for Poussin, and active creative work. Within four years he achieved a young painter’s highest aim, he was commissioned to paint an altarpiece for a chapel in St. Peter’s Cathedral Martyrdom of St. Erasmus (1628-29). At that period he acquired the dynamic style already dominant in Europe, the style that we now know as Baroque. It was at this time that he produced the most baroque of all his pictures, the altarpiece The Virgin of the Pillar Appearing to St. James the Greater, which was ordered for a church in the Spanish Netherlands. Eventually this work reached not the town of Valenciennes but the collection of Cardinal Richelieu and finally came to Louis XIII and to the Louvre. Poussin was evidently frustrated and disappointed by his lack of success in the intensely competitive field of baroque altarpiece painting. He never attempted this style again.
After a short crisis he chose the more restrained and intellectual direction of development, which appealed to the learned tastes of his Roman friends. In 1629, Poussin married his landlord’s daughter. The first Roman period (1624-30) on the whole is characterized by mythological themes, with sweet love, poetical inspiration, carefree happiness in harmony with nature.
In the next decade history became the main subject of Poussin’s work. The artist is attracted by situations, in which the moral qualities of people reveal themselves. In pictures of the 1630s the compositions are complex and compound with many characters, they remind of the classical tragedy on stage. Poussin used a special box and wax figures: first he built his compositions, then started to draw preliminary sketches, and only then painted. The best-known works of the period are – The Rescue of Pyrrhus (1634), The Noble Deed of Scipio (1640). Very popular in his time were the so-called bacchanal series, commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu. One of them, which survived, is Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite (1634). Those paintings were supposed to decorate the cardinal’s palace, and this fact indicates that the interest to Poussin in France grew. In the second half of the 1630s the young artists in Paris chose to follow Poussin’s style in historical genre. The King’s officials wanted to return the artist to France. Poussin did not hurry back. He came to France only in 1840, after they had passed him the King’s threat. In Paris Poussin was immediately appointed the person in charge of all art works in the King’s palaces. This caused violent jealousy on the part of other court artists; Vouet headed the opposition.
For about two years Poussin painted altarpieces, canvases for Richelieu and supervised the decorative works in the Big Gallery in Louvre. Surrounded by hatred and jealousy, Poussin did not finish the work and fled to Rome. His artistic and moral ideals stood in conflict with those of the monarch.
In the late Roman period (1642-65) Poussin continued to work mainly in historical genre. The most important work of that period is the series Seasons (1660-64).
Poussin’s work influenced the further development of European
painting. His authoritative interpretations of ancient history and Greek and
Roman mythology left their mark on European art down to the 19th century.
Germanicus Caesar (15 B.C. – A.D.19), a Roman general, the son of Nero Claudius Drusus, and nephew of the emperor Tiberius, who adopted Germanicus. Germanicus was married to Agrippina the Elder, who eventually headed the anti-Tiberius party. The popular opinion is that Germanicus was poisoned by Piso, the governor of Syria, on the order of Tiberius, who was jealous of Germanicus’ popularity. Whatever the case, his death was unexpected and was used for demonstration against unpopular Tiberius.
See: Nicolas Poussin. The Death of Germanicus.
Diogenes of Sinope (4th century BC) was a Cynic philosopher, who lived in Athens and Corinth. There are some anecdotes recorded about his extremely austere way of life. He despised worldly possessions to such extent that made his home in a barrel. Once Alexander the Great visited the philosopher and invited to ask any favor. Diogenes only asked that the king stand aside as he was shading him from the sun. Another anecdote says how Diogenes with a lighted lantern was “looking for an honest man” in a crowd of Athenians. See: Nicolas Poussin. Landscape with Diogen. Jusepe de Ribera. Diogenes with His Lantern.
Ark of Testimony (Exodus 40:20), the main object of worship of the ancient Israelites, in which the Testament was kept. Moses 'took the Testimony and put it into the Ark, inserted the poles in the Ark, and put the cover over the top of the Ark. He brought the Ark into the Tabernacle, set up the curtain of the screen, and so screened the Ark of the Testimony, as the Lord had commanded him' (Exodus 40:20-21).
During one of the multiple wars of the Israelites with the
Philistines the Ark was captured , brought to the city of Ashdod, and put into
the temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2). Soon different unhappy events, including
plague, started to happen in the city. 'The Lord's hand oppressed the people of
Ashdod. He threw them into despair; he plagued them with tumors, and their
territory swarmed with rats. There was death and destruction all through the
city.' (1 Samuel 5:6). The citizens of Ashdod realized that the reason was in
the captured Ark, and sent it off to Gath, where 'the Lord caused great havoc;
He plagued everybody, high and low alike, with the tumors which broke out.' (1
Samuel 5:9). So the Ark of God was sent to another Philistine city, Ekron, with
the same result. And the citizens demanded from their leaders to return the Ark
to the Israelites: 'Send the Ark of the God of Israel away; let it go back to
its own place, or it will be the death of us all' (1 Samuel 5:11). See:
Nicolas Poussin. The Plague of Ashdod.
The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is a historical event, described by Josephus Flavius in The Wars. During the war of AD 69-70 against the Jewish uprising, the Romans captured Jerusalem; during their attack on the Temple, which continued to resist, one of the soldiers threw a torch into its window. The fire started. The Roman chief commander Tit Flavius, later the emperor, tried to stop the fire and his outraged soldiers, who started to destroy the Temple, but it was too late. Thus in AD 70 the second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. See: Nicolas Poussin. The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Scipio Aemilianus, Publius Cornelius, African Minor (185-129 BC) Roman statesman and general. He commanded the Roman troops in the third Punic war, which ended by the capture and destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. A legend says that he was presented with a young beautiful captive, but founding out that she was betrothed, he returned her to her fiancé.
See: Nicolas Poussin. The Noble Deed of Scipio.
Poussin by Yu. Zolotov. Moscow. 1988.
Painting of Western Europe. XVII century. by E. Rotenberg. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1989.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
Poussin and France: Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style by Todd P. Olson. Yale Univ Pr, 2002.
Poussin by Fedrico Zeri. NDE Publishing, 2001.
A Dance to the Music of Time by Richard Beresford, Nicolas Poussin. Wallace Collection, 1995.
Nicolas Poussin by Elizabeth Cropper, Charles Dempsey. Princeton University Press, 2000.
Nicholas Poussin Paints the Seven Sacraments Twice by Tony Green. Paravail, 2000.
The Seven Sacraments of Nicolas Poussin by Neil Bartlett. Artangel, 1998.
Poussin and France: Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style by Todd Olson. Yale University Press , 2002.
Ideal Landscapes: Carracci, Poussin and Lorain by Margaretha Lagerlof. Yale University Press, 1990.
Commemorating Poussin: Reception and Interpretation of the Artist by Katie Scott, Genevieve Warwick. Cambridge University Press, 1999.