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Plate 12 Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem - After David Roberts
  • Plate 12 Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem - After David Roberts

    Writing in his journal on the 12th April 1839 Roberts said 'On my return home after sketching, found that the consul had called for me. To-day I have wandered over the hills, but have not been able to get a good view of the city.' [1] The artist, however, found and sketched this picturesque view of the Pool of Bethesda which has become one of his iconic views of the Holy City.


    'In Latin, the word for pool - "piscina" - was used generically, to describe any basin of water not roofed over, whether that water was used to keep fish or for humas to swin in. In ancient Jerusalem, the great reservoir of fresh water located at the northeast corner of the walls of the temple, not far from the Church of St. Anne, was called "piscina probatica." It must have been a common urge with the earliest Christian monks to give names taken from the Holy Scriptures to just about any important landmark in the City of David; perhaps that urge led them to dub this impressive structure - about three hundred sixty feet in length, some one hundred and thirty feet in width, and about seventy-five feet deept - with the name of Bethesda. The deepest parts of the reservoir date from the ear of the Hasmoneans, while the waterproof lining was made during the Roman period. Nearby, during the Byzantine Era, a large church was built and later the Crusaders built a chapel there. Unfortunately, all of these subsequent constructions, a veritable microcosm of the complex urban history of Jerusalem, were destroyed over the course of the centuries, and today only a few scattered traces remain. Tradition has it that in the Pool of Bethesda lambs were washed before being sacrificed in the Temple, and the Gospel according to St. John mentions that Jesus cured the crippled man here. In the illustration by Roberts, the deep trench appears to be choked with rubble and dirt, and small trees even grew on this pile of detritus. Only a part of the basin contained even a puddle of stagnant water; remaining from the spring rains.' [2]


    The drawings and watercolours from this tour by David Roberts of the Holy Land and Egypt were collated together into folios and released over a seven year period by the publisher F.G. Moon from 20 Threadneedle Street London. This lithograph is an original First Edition.


    Medium: Original First Edition Lithograph, with later hand-colouring on thick woven paper.


    Full Plate 12.


    Inscribed l.r. 'Jerusalem april 12th 1839' and 'David Roberts', 32 x 48.5 cm (picture size), framed.


    Provenance: Storey's Ltd, Fine Rare Antique Prints & Maps dealer, 3 Cecil Court London (label verso).




    [1] David Roberts Journal, 12th April 1839.


    [2] Fabio Bourbon (ed). Yesterday and Today: The Holy Land. Swan Hill Press: London, 1997, p.189. Translated by Antony Shugaar.


    Condition report: the lithograph is generally in good condition for its age. Small areas of scattered foxing (particularly in the margins) and time staining. Please see photographs. Frame shows some wear.

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