David Roberts was a Scottish painter and printmaker who made his name with Orientalist paintings, sketches and lithographs based on his extensive tours of Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. In contrast to other artists featured in this collection, therefore, Roberts’ depiction of the New Jerusalem was informed by his visit to and study of the Jerusalem of his own time, in addition to the writings of Josephus (especially the Jewish War).
The image here is a lithograph of one of Roberts' most famous paintings, the monumental The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (lost in 1854, only to reappear in 1961, long after his death). In this impressive image, we are given a panoramic view of the destruction of Jerusalem from the perspective of the Mount of Olives to the east of the city. It closely resembles another of his lithographs of Jerusalem, made on his trip there in 1839. In this image, the north wall of the city is already on fire, reflecting the staged description of the attack on the city given by Josephus. The Temple complex is visible on the left, with the Antonia fortress in the top left hand corner. In the foreground a Roman garrison of archers attack the city across the Kidron valley, even though in military terms this is rather improbable. Next to the archers is a group of mostly female Jewish captives.
Although more architecturally and geographically accurate than others, Roberts’ painting perhaps lacks some of the personal drama and immediacy of his predecessors, although one comes away better informed about the scope and scale of the city and Titus's attack upon it.
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