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After David Roberts RA - The Destruction of Jerusalem under Titus A.D. 71
  • After David Roberts RA - The Destruction of Jerusalem under Titus A.D. 71

    This exceptional lithograph depicting 'The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus A.D. 70' was produced by Louis Haghe in 1850. It was based on the incredibly popular oil painting of the same name that Roberts exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849. He first conceived the idea of the epic composition in 1847 and spent many hours deciphering and reading Josephus' 'The Jewish War' which was a contemporary account of the event where the Roman commander Titus destroyed the Holy City after a Jewish revolt against Roman rule during the reign of Nero. Describing his first large sketch of the painting, Roberts wrote to his son-in-law Henry Bicknell saying:


    'I have finished the Sketch for Jerusalem both in the drawing in of the Various objects and The effect, which I am rather pleased with myself and I am now in the act of transferring it to the large Canvas. The View is taken from the northside of The Mount of Olives showing the Temple with its various courts to great advantage whilst rising over all is Zion crowned with the Palace of Herod and its numerous Public buildings. The period of time I take is after the sacking of the outer city, the breaking down of the second wall and before hte Temple or Zion were injured. In the foreground I bring in the Roman Soldiers with their captives. The whole composes much better than I at first had any idea of' [1]


    Interestingly, whilst Roberts was working on the enormous canvas, Ballantine (who wrote the first biography on the artist) suggests that J.M.W. Turner came in often to see Roberts' progress on the painting and made many suggestions. Turner was in his element painting historical paintings which would explain his interest in Roberts' picture. The final painting was completed in time for the Royal Academy exhibition in 1849 (Roberts' only exhibition piece for that year) and caused ''the hangers a great deal of trouble from its height being over the line'. First they put it in the Great Room minus its frame; but eventually it was hung in the Middle Room in its frame and, although resting on the floor was even then eighteen inches above the line. He worked considerably on it during the three Varnishing Days available - a contributory factor to its apparent fate'. [2] The interest in the painting was overwhelming with the Literary Gazette believing it was 'an exhibition in itself, and one of hte most splendid pictures ever produced in our English School...Josephus is indeed illustriously illustrated. It is a work for a nation.' [3] Louis Haghe was unsurprisingly asked to produce a lithograph of the painting and he had a great relationship with Roberts after producing all of the lithographs depicting his trip to the Holy Land and Egypt in the 1840s. Amazingly, Haghe completed the monumental lithograph in only three weeks with Roberts calling it a work 'on a scale of magnitude never hitherto attempted in Lithography.' [4] It certainly is a testament to Haghe's skill.


    The oil painting unfortunately cannot currently be traced. It was sold in 1961 after reappearing for the first time since 1880, but has since disappeared. Therefore, the few remaining lithographs after the painting are particularly important. Very few still include the second engraving of the key to the painting, ours includes this. Each important part of the composition is numbered and labelled as a key under the engraving.


    Medium: Original hand-coloured lithograph on thick woven paper, 69.9 x 106.7 cm (arched at top), framed. Published by Day & Son, 12 Gate Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, 1850.




    [1] Katherine Sim, 'David Roberts R.A. 1796-1864', Quartet Books: London (1984), p.248.


    [2] Ibid., pp.253-254


    [3] Ibid., p.254.


    [4] Helen Guiterman and Briony Llewellyn (eds.), 'David Roberts', Exhibition catalogue at the Barbican Art Gallery, Phaidon Press Ltd: Oxford, p.119.

    Condition report:


    (1) Lithograph


    The lithograph is in generally very good condition for its age. There is some foxing in the top left-hand corner in the sky and also a small puncture tear in the sky in the top right-hand corner (see photographs). A restorer would be able to help with the tear and foxing. The lithograph is framed in an original large and very heavy Victorian gilt-frame probably from the 1850s. The lithograph has an impressive original mount with a gold slip. The mount however has a large amount of foxing as shown in some of the photographs and will need changing. The frame has small loses to its moulding throughout, along with the loses to the original gold gilt finish. We decided not to restore the frame or mount as they are originals and we would like the buyer to have their own choice.


    (2) Printed key to lithograph


    Generally not in great condition. There are foxing marks along the edges of the print with some time staining throughout. The print is stuck onto a canvas and there are lumps where it hasn't been glued down very well in the top right hand-corner. The wooden frame is not in very good condition at all and is coming apart, this is particularly obvious in the bottom left-hand corner. There is no glazing. We have kept it in the frame, as again we believe this is an original from the 1850s, however, it will either need restoring or the buyer may wish to get it re-framed.




    The frame is exceptionally heavy and will require a specialist courier due to the glazing, we will use Mailboxes. Otherwise, the safest way to collect the lithograph would be in person. If there is interest outside of the UK, we would be happy to get a shipping quote but it may be quite high.

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