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Fouquet Siege of Jeru by Neb.jpg

Jean Fouquet’s 'The Siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar' from Antiquites Judaiques

This image of the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE is taken from illuminated images made by master illustrator Jean Fouquet to accompany a French translation of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Fouquet began around 1410 CE, originally intending the work for the Duc de Berry, and finished around 1476 CE, with the work ultimately destined for the Duc de Nemours. There was an upsurge in interest in manuscripts dedicated to Jewish history in fifteenth century Europe and this work is part of that trend. The siege and subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the Temple was a pivotal moment in Jewish history and Josephus, a first century CE Jewish historian, devotes a significant part of his Antiquities of the Jews to the episode. He reports that Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged the city, sent in General Nebuzaradan to pillage and burn the Temple, to kill and capture the priests, and to exile the Jewish people to Babylon. Fouquet’s lavish images follow Josephus’ text fairly faithfully. We see, for example, the Babylonian forces entering the temple and killing and capturing priests in the background of the image. The Temple has been set on fire, and flames and wisps of smoke are visible. The habit of depicting Jerusalem and the Temple in contemporary terms, which apparent also in Cranach and the Angers tapestry, is clear here as well. The Temple itself, for example, though faithfully depicted as gold and cubic in shape, resembles the Cathedral at Tours more than any historical or biblical descriptions. See also Fouquet's image of Herod's entry into Jerusalem.