Francesco Hayez's 'Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem'
Francesco Hayez (1791–1882), 1867 CE
Francesco Hayez was a Venetian painter working in Italy in the nineteenth century. Hayez was known for his theatrical history paintings of biblical and classical themes, rendered in neo-classical style. This chaotic, dramatic, and rather violent image of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and his Roman army in 70 CE, as described by Josephus in his Jewish War, is typical of Hayez’s style.
The focal point of the image is the fighting taking place on the giant stone altar in the middle of the Temple precinct. This stone altar, used for burning the offerings specified in Deuteronomy 27:6-7, was an actual feature of the Second Temple buildings. In this respect Hayez's work represents a move towards a more architecturally accurate rendering of the Temple. Nevertheless, the placement of the altar is inaccurate, as are the steps, as the stone altar was accessed by a ramp.
The symbolism inherent in the Jewish victims being thrown to their deaths from the altar is typical of Hayez’s allegorical style. The sense of sacrilegious chaos is also echoed by the visible theft of the golden menorah, the holy seven-armed candlestick, in the foreground of the image, as well as by the flight of a group of angels in the top left hand corner of the painting.