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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. 


COLLECTIONS FROM THE ARTS
 
   
 

CHURBAN ARTWORK

 

Conquest of Jerusalem by Emperor Titus

Nicolas Poussin
(1594-1665)

1638 - Original Version 1625
Canvas / H 148 cm, W 199 cm / GG Inv. No. 1556
Les Andelys, near Paris

 



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In the last part of the 1630s Poussin's art underwent a rapid metamorphosis. One of the best examples of this is the Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. It is dry in handling and agitated in composition, and has that peculiar unattractiveness of surface on which Poussin was to dwell so much in his later years. His denial of the sensual quality of painting was deliberate: this preoccupation with surface texture is found in all his pictures of around 1630. Yet the Vienna picture succeeds by the mood it creates. The subject is one of prime importance for Jewish as well as Christian history - the final and irrevocable loss of the Jews' holiest place - and Poussin has concentrated on the mood of wanton destruction.

Artist Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece, The Destruction and Looting of Jerusalem, missing for more than 300 years, is now on exhibit at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Poussin, son of a French soldier, was born in Normandy in 1594. In 1623, he went to Rome and two years later, Cardinal Francesco Barberini commissioned him to do the painting.

However, when Cardinal Richelieu (of “The Three Musketeers” fame) became Prime Minister of France, he obtained the painting for his niece, the Duchess of Aiguillon. When she died in 1675, the painting became part of the Maistre des Ceremonies collection of Monsieur de Saintot. Then, it disappeared.

The Destruction and Looting of Jerusalem reappeared in England in the late 1980s and was mistakenly attributed to artist Pietro Testa. In 1995, it was auctioned at Sotheby’s and purchased by collectors Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox. During the course of restoration, it became clear that here, at long last, was Poussin’s missing painting.

A later version, painted by Poussin in 1638 with the same motif, hangs in the Museum of Art in Vienna. Poussin based his painting on the writings of Josephus Flavius, an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem. He copied the menorah from the Arch of Titus in Rome.

The painting is an oil measuring 57 x 86 inches. It was donated to the Israel Museum by the Rothschild Foundation in memory of Sir Isaiah Berlin, a 30-year member of the Rothschild Foundation.

 

 

 

WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID

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)?

 

 

“A Temple in Flames”
A Lecture on Poussin’s
The Sack and Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by Titus

Chief Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks
The National Gallery - 28 April 1999

"All Jews who are at all conscious of their identity as Jews are steeped in history . . . Whatever other factors may have entered into the unique amalgam which, if not always Jews themselves, at any rate the rest of the world instantly recognises as the Jewish people, historical consciousness – a sense of continuity with the past – is among the most powerful."
Isaiah Berlin


 
"Only in Israel and nowhere else is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people."
Yosef Yerushalmi


 
For Gershon Levin, a medic serving in the tsarist army in 1916, the shock of recognition was immediate when his regiment marched through the ruins of Husiatyn, a town that straddled the border between Galicia and Russia:
“Only then did I grasp the Destruction of Jerusalem . . . [O]n seeing what the Russians did to Husiatyn in the twentieth century, I could easily imagine what the Romans must have done to Jerusalem some two thousand years ago.” 
. . . Levin’s shock on entering the town triggered a leap across historical time: such things had not happened since the days of the Temple; but however terrible the present devastation, memory confirmed that it was not impossible. As real as was the ruin of the Great Destruction, it was perhaps just as certain that the Jews should endure.
David Roskies


There are civilisations whose gift it has been to enrich the world with pictorial art; and there are others whose gift has lain elsewhere. From its earliest days, Israel, the Jewish people, has devoted itself not to art but to language, not to images but to words – to things heard, not things seen. This surely was one of the great differences between the two powerful and ancient cultures that shaped the development of the West – Hellenism and Hebraism, to use Matthew Arnold’s terms, or Rome and Jerusalem, to use those of Moses Hess. At different times each has rekindled the heart of Europe, setting in motion a renaissance, now of art, now of moral fervour, and their stories continue to interweave, as once an ancient prophecy spoke of Jacob and Esau, locked for all time in sibling rivalry and tense embrace.


What a rich store of resonances are therefore set in motion by the rediscovery of Poussin’s painting of the Destruction of the Second Temple, a canvas missing, presumed lost, for centuries, and now set before us, drawing us back across time into seventeenth century Rome and first century Jerusalem. Responding to it as a Jew, I want to set it in a larger landscape – a landscape, to adapt Simon Schama’s phrase, of memory. The story I have to tell is about how a single scene, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, was painted, not once but many times, and not in oils on canvas, but in hopes and tears etched on the mind. It’s about a different kind of National Gallery  - the gallery of recollections which make nations and civilisations what they become. Above all, it is about memory as a form of art, memory as the power of the human imagination to reconstruct the fragments of the past and, out of them, build a coherent future. And I begin by setting alongside Poussin’s painting, three other scenes.
 

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.

 

By the waters of Babylon,
We sat and wept
As we remembered Zion.
How can we sing the Lord’s song
In a strange land? . . .
If I forget you O Jerusalem
May my right hand forget its skill,
May my tongue cleave
To the roof of my mouth,
If I do not remember you,
If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.


Jews vowed not to forget Jerusalem – and they never did.


The second is set in the fourth century and comes from the Christian writer, Jerome:

On the day of the Destruction of Jerusalem [he means: the Ninth of Av], you see a sad people coming to visit, decrepit little women and old men encumbered with rags and years, showing both in their bodies and their dress the wrath of the Lord. A crowd of pitiable creatures assembles and under the gleaming gibbet of the Lord and his sparkling resurrection, and before a brilliant banner with a cross, waving from the Mount of Olives, they weep over the ruins of the Temple. And yet they are not worthy of pity. 


The third memory is my own, set in 1969. The Six Day War had come and gone, and I had gone to Jerusalem to study my people and its past. That afternoon I stood on Har Tzofim, Mount Scopus, as the sun set, turning the hills of Judea to burning gold. I looked out over the Old City, and suddenly realised that it was on that very spot that Rabbi Akiva had stood and comforted his colleagues as they wept seeing a jackal prowling through the ruins of the Holy of Holies. The prophets, he said, foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem, and they foresaw Jerusalem rebuilt. If the first prophecy has come true, so too will the second.  And it had taken almost two thousand years. And my generation had lived to see it. And I stood in silent awe at the sheer persistence of faith that had led Jews back to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem.


And so to the fourth scene - to us, here, now, trying to make sense of a painting of the destruction of Jerusalem, painted by Poussin in Rome in the mid-1620s at the request of Cardinal Francesco Barberini at the height of the Thirty Years War, a painting lost for more than 200 years, rediscovered and identified by Sir Dennis Mahon, and now purchased by the Rothschild Foundation and presented to the Israel Museum, to hang in rebuilt Jerusalem, capital of the reborn Jewish State, in tribute to the memory of the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, the great historian of ideas and champion of freedom, Israel and the Jewish people.


We stand, then, not only in front of a painting but in the presence of an embarras de richesse of themes in the history of ideas: destruction and rebirth, exile and return, lamentation and hope, Rome and Jerusalem, Christianity and Judaism, events and their interpretation. These words, on these themes, are my tribute to Sir Isaiah and what he taught us about the power of ideas to shape history.


Let me begin my story just as Poussin is about to set brush to canvas. As he contemplates his composition, what image comes to mind as he thinks about the fall of Jerusalem, and where did it come from? It came, as we know, from a highly charged account written by an eyewitness, Josephus, in his Wars of the Jews, and behind this account too there is a story. Josephus was a Jewish priest, and later military commander, sent to Galilee to prepare the population for the coming confrontation with Rome. His task was impossible. The people were divided. Some were for, some against, the rebellion. Eventually, after the collapse of Jotopata, Josephus surrendered to Vespasian and went over to the Romans, serving as an interpreter during the siege of Rome. It was then that he struck up a friendship with Vespasian’s son Titus, a man of the same age as Josephus himself.


Josephus’ account of the fall of Jerusalem is the only complete record that has survived. One aspect of it is justly famous and is echoed in rabbinic sources - namely the deep divisions within the Jewish people itself. Jerusalem was destroyed, said the sages, because of sinat chinam, the internecine conflicts between Jew and Jew. There are times in Josephus’ narrative when it seems that the Jews inside besieged Jerusalem were more intent on fighting one another than on fighting the enemy outside. The Talmud says that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, leader of the peace party, had to have himself smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin to conduct negotiations with Vespasian, for fear of assassination by Jewish zealots.  How tragic that plus ca change plus c’est le meme chose!


But it is another aspect of Josephus’ story that caught the mind of Poussin and shaped his composition – namely that Titus was determined not to destroy the Temple. The fire was lit, against his orders, by Roman soldiers carried away in the heat of battle, and though Titus was distraught, he was unable to control his troops.  That is what Poussin has painted, faithfully following Josephus’ account.


Was it true? We have no way of knowing, because Josephus is our only guide to these events. Paul Johnson describes Josephus’ account as “tendentious, contradictory and thoroughly unreliable”.  Perhaps so, but Josephus was not writing academic history. He was, as we would put it today, a spin-doctor, placing a particular construction on events. Josephus was a Jew in Rome, trying to survive in difficult times. Titus, the Roman commander and later emperor, was his friend and protector. And so inevitably, in an age in which enlightened empires were supposed to respect the holy places of their subject peoples, Josephus wrote an account in which Titus was not the destroyer of Jerusalem but a helpless bystander as his troops rampaged in the orgy of violence that Poussin has captured so well.


The first brushstroke has not yet been applied, and already we find ourselves confronted by the phenomenon of which Isaiah Berlin wrote so acutely in his essay on Disraeli and Karl Marx – the conflicted identity of the Jew caught in the double bind of trying to find a home among those who are hostile to his people, rewriting history in the process.


Josephus was not the only person in the late first century trying to make resolve a conflict of identity. So too were the early Christians. Were they Jews or gentiles? Was Christianity a continuation of, or a revolution against, the ancient covenant with the Jewish people. That was the struggle between Paul and the Jerusalem Church under Jesus’ brother James – and it was settled by the destruction of Jerusalem, in which many of the Jewish Christians died. From then on, the Pauline model prevailed. The old covenant, and the old Israel, were now declared dead. Something new had begun. And this too has left its mark on Poussin’s painting.
 

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.


In 1994 the playwright Arnold Wesker was asked to write a play for the opening of a new theatre in Norwich. He wrote it and called it Blood Libel, because it was in Norwich, 850 years earlier, in 1144, that the first blood libel took place. He sent me the script, and after reading it I phoned him and said, “I enjoyed the play but one thing puzzled me. You have written a play about the blood libel, and throughout the play, not a single Jew comes on stage.” He replied: “The reason is simple. The blood libel was about Christians not Jews. Jews were the victims. Other than that, they had no part to play.”


That could equally be said about the destruction of Jerusalem as it appeared to Poussin and his patron, Cardinal Barberini, in 1626. This is a painting that belongs to the dominant mode of Christian biblical interpretation – typology – in which ancient events figure as types or prefigurations of things in the present: in this case, the Holy Roman Empire rampaging out of control in the Thirty Years’ War. Jews themselves – whether of the first century or the seventeenth – have simply disappeared.


Where were they in the Rome of 1626 as the artist was at work on his composition? The short answer is: hidden behind the walls of the ghetto. The position of Jews in Rome, once relatively benign, worsened dramatically during the Counter-Reformation, and we still carry traces of this in our language. If Germany gave the world the phrase “Final Solution”, and Russia the word “pogrom”, sixteenth century Italy gave us the word “ghetto”, born in Venice, and extended throughout the Papal states. Its gates were locked at night, and remained locked on Christian holidays so that faithful Christians would not be disturbed by the sight of members of the now-accursed race. 


The ghetto itself was the working out of a more ancient memory, namely the destruction of the Second Temple as seen through Christian eyes. The early Church dwelt on three salient facts. The first was that Jews, by and large, did not become Christians. The second was that, forty or so years after the death of Jesus, the Temple was destroyed. Jewish hopes of independence had failed, and from then on the power Christians had to confront was not Judaism but Rome. The third was the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century and the rise of Christianity as a world power.  


To Christians this suggested one thing, the very thing Paul had first intimated. God had rejected the old Israel and elected a new. The destruction of the Temple was His punishment – proof if any were needed that the Jewish people was now abandoned. Henceforth, as Augustine put it in the fourth century, Jews were branded with the mark of Cain, cursed for killing their brother and condemned to wander across the face of the earth, everywhere a stranger, nowhere at home. From then on, in the Christian imagination, Jews largely ceased to be a living people. They were preserved merely to prove the truth of Christianity, to which their pariah state gave constant witness. That is why Poussin can paint a picture of the Temple from which Jews are almost absent.

What, then, did Jews make of the same event? The depth of their devastation can be measured by two talmudic passages. According to one, many Jews in the wake of the destruction vowed never again to eat meat and drink wine but to live instead in perpetual mourning. A few decades later, during the Hadrianic persecutions, we even encounter the idea that Jews should no longer marry and have children, so that “the seed of Abraham [the Jewish people] should come to an end of its own accord.”  In the other we read of how God himself, each midnight, inhabits the ruins of Jerusalem and weeps at what has become of His home, and His children.


More striking than how Jews responded is how they did not respond. The one thing they could not accept was the Christian interpretation of the event. They knew their Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They knew that when God allows a Temple to be destroyed, it is not because He has abandoned the covenant, but because we have. For Jews there could be no new testament, no other religious reality, than the one God himself described as a brit olam, His “everlasting covenant” with the Jewish people.


What then did Jews do, as their world lay in ruins, bereft of Temple and land, priests and prophets, independence and power and Jerusalem? They responded with one of those stunning bursts of spiritual energy that have somehow always lifted the Jewish people above tragedy. In place of the temple, they built synagogues. In place of a land they created communities. For weapons of war they substituted education, because to defend a country you need an army but to defend an identity you need schools.


And though eventually they were scattered throughout the world, wherever they went, they remembered Jerusalem. They spoke of it and turned towards it in all their prayers. At every wedding they broke a glass in its memory. Every year on the ninth of Av they sat and mourned as if they had witnessed its destruction. Having lost the physical Jerusalem, they carried with them a Jerusalem of the mind, built out of words and prayers and memories and hopes. The rabbis said, “The Divine presence never left Jerusalem.” Perhaps it would be no less true to say that – if we are where our heart is - the Jewish people never left Jerusalem.


And so to more recent times. There is a story, perhaps a legend, that tells of Napoleon passing a synagogue on the Ninth of Av, and from it there were coming cries of lamentation. What are the Jews crying for? He is said to have asked. Jerusalem, was the answer, to which he replied: “A people that can mourn Jerusalem for so long will one day have it back.”


True or otherwise, the story evokes echoes in the Jewish mind. There are two kinds of grief. There is a grief that ends in acceptance. We suffer a loss and eventually come to terms with it. Twice in the Bible, however, we encounter a different kind of grief. When the brothers tell the patriarch Jacob that Joseph is dead, he mourns and “refuses to be comforted” . And the prophet Jeremiah hears “A voice in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted”.


What is the grief that refuses consolation? It is the grief that refuses to accept the finality of loss, the grief that does not abandon hope. Jacob refused to believe that Joseph is dead. Rachel refused to believe that her children are lost beyond recall. So Jews mourned Jerusalem, refusing to be comforted, because they could not believe that they would never return. Od lo avdah tikvatenu. “Our hope is not yet destroyed”. So go the famous words of the Israeli national anthem, themselves an echo of a famous phrase of the prophet Ezekiel in his vision of the valley of dry bones that came to life again.


As we stand before this painting by Poussin, a work missing, presumed lost, for more than two hundred years, now found and restored to its former glory, might we not see in this physical object a metaphor for the Jewish people, lost, abandoned, unrecognised, but now recovered and restored. “Like one whom his mother comforts,” says Isaiah, “so shall I comfort you, and in Jerusalem you shall be comforted.” And perhaps the story of this painting will take its place with those other interweaving stories of Judaism and Christianity, exile and return, Rome and Jerusalem, that frame its subject.


And so I come to my final image, in some ways the most haunting of all. It comes from a rabbinic midrash, written in the early centuries of the common era, and it is a commentary to the words which set Jewish history in motion, God’s call to Abraham, Lekh lehka, “Leave your land, your birthplace and your father’s house and go to the land which I will show you.” Here is the midrash:

“To what may this be compared. It is like a man who was on a journey when he saw birah doleket, a palace in flames. He said, ‘Is it possible that the palace has no owner?’ But the owner of the palace looked out, and said, ‘I am the owner of the palace.’ So said God to Abraham, ‘I am the owner of the world.’ ”

This is an extraordinary and enigmatic passage. What does it mean?


In the history of humanity’s attempt to understand itself, two ideas, in countless variations, have prevailed. The first sees the miraculous intricacy of the natural world and concludes that there is a God – a design must have a designer, and creation a creator. It looks at the world and sees a palace and ignores the flames.


The second sees the brutal randomness of the human world – the pain, the injustice, the oppression – and concludes that there is no God. There is only chance and necessity and natural selection and the inevitable cruelty of the strong against the weak. It looks at the world and sees no palace, only flames.


Both views are coherent and each excludes the other. If God exists, there is no evil. If evil exists, there is no God. But what if both exist – order and chaos, God and evil, the palace and the flames? That is an almost unbearable contradiction – but it was in this contradiction that Judaism was born. So said the sages, talking about Abraham, but surely also talking about themselves in the wake of the great destruction.


“I made the world,” says God, “and men have set it on fire. I call on you, Abraham, you and your children throughout the ages, to put out the flames and restore the palace.” That is the Jewish story. Perhaps it is the human story. Certainly it is the story Sir Isaiah Berlin told as he wondered whether, out of the crooked timber of humanity, some straight thing might be made.


And in years to come, as visitors from across the world come to Jerusalem, the old-new home of the old-new people, and look upon this painting of violence and destruction and a burning Temple, they may ask, as Jews have always asked – Which will prevail? The palace or the flames? And somehow the answer will lie in Jerusalem, the city of so much conflict through the ages, but whose name means “the city of peace”. The world is God’s but the choice is ours.


BIOGRAPHY

Nicolas Poussin
(1594-1665)

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.

Notes

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.

Bibliography:
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.