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Rembrandt - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem.jpg

Rembrandt's 'Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem'

Rembrandt’s Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem depicts the prophet mourning the loss of the city, which can just be made out on the left hand side. Portrayed in sharp detail against an otherwise soft background, Jeremiah leans to his left, propped up by a large book marked Bibel. The position of the prophet is somewhat reminiscent of Michelangelo’s portrayal of the same prophet in his earlier Sistine Chapel fresco (1508-1512 CE). Jeremiah 39–52 records the fall of Jerusalem and its immediate aftermath. Unlike Ezekiel, whose book speaks from the perspective of Babylonian exile, the book of Jeremiah speaks with the voice of those left behind in Judah; the prophet, it says, was granted permission to stay in Judah by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. When Jeremiah left Judah with others who had been left in Judah by the Babylonians, he went Egypt. Jeremiah was traditionally also considered the author of the book of Lamentations. This is attested even in the early translations of the Bible—the Septuagint, the translation into Greek, for example, includes a superscription that ends 'Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lament over Jerusalem'. The perceived connection between Jeremiah and Lamentations is due in part to the two books' linguistic similarities, although this may simply be due to their shared subject matter and close chronological proximity. 2 Chronicles 35:25 records Jeremiah chanting a lament over the death of Josiah the king, which may have helped the two books to be connected in the subsequent tradition.

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Hans Memling's 'The Passion'

This image, painted between 1470 and 1471 CE by the Flemish painter Hans Memling, belongs to a category of images of Jerusalem which self-consciously use a stylized version of the city as a setting for biblical narratives. Using ‘simultaneous painting’, a style for which he was well-known, Memling has here depicted the entirety of the Passion and resurrection in twenty three scenes. The earliest scene is the entry of Christ into Jerusalem in the top left hand corner. The narrative then unfolds via the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, also on the left side of the panel, moving towards the trial scene and flagellation in the centre of the painting before shifting outwards via the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion at the top centre-right. The three resurrection scenes all take place in the top right corner of the (comparatively small) panel. There is some suggestion that Memling based the layout of the city and the main sites on the report of Anselm Adornes’ pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1470. Adornes was a friend of the painting’s patron, Tommaso Portinari, depicted in prayer in the bottom left hand corner of the image. At the time, it was possible to obtain an indulgence by making an imaginary ‘pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land by contemplating a painting such as this one, or Matthew Paris's itinerary map. In this image Jerusalem—translocated to fifteenth-century Bruges—thus functions imaginatively on two levels: it is an imaginary vision of Jerusalem via which imaginary pilgrimages could be made.

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'The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' from the Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece consists of twenty-four pieces painted by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck for a side chapel of St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. It is a visual unfolding of the entire history of salvation, from Adam and Eve in Genesis, through the incarnation and passion of Christ in the gospels, to the promise of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The central panel of the altarpiece, shown here, represents a foreshadowing of the New Jerusalem, with all peoples and nations flocking towards the Lamb (Christ) at the centre of the panel. As in the Angers tapestry, the paradisial, horticultural aspect of the New Jerusalem is foregrounded. Although real buildings from the cities of Utrecht and Ghent can be seen in the background, they remain on the periphery. The River of Life from Revelation 22:1–2 was often visualised rather crudely in earlier images, such as the Silos Apocalypse, as a river flowing from the throne of God; here it is conceived in the foreground of the image as a delicate fountain, surrounded by the precious stones of which the New Jerusalem is said to be made (Revelation 21:19–20). The emphasis in this vision of the New Jerusalem on humanity, who are at the heart of the scene, is overwhelming, evoking a vision of a second Eden. From all four corners of the panel come humanity: groups of martyrs—both male and female, saints, Old Testament patriarchs, pious pagans, apostles and popes. They all process towards the Lamb, who stands on the altar at the centre of the image. Unlike, for example, the Trinity Apocalypse, the New Jerusalem is here presented not foremost as a bejewelled and golden city, beyond the realms of human imagination, but as a spiritual place whose foundations are based in the faith and sacrifice of its inhabitants.