POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem II

Oil on canvas, 147 x 198 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In the last part of the 1630s Poussin's art underwent a rapid metamorphosis. One of the best examples of this is the Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. It is dry in handling and agitated in composition, and has that peculiar unattractiveness of surface on which Poussin was to dwell so much in his later years. His denial of the sensual quality of painting was deliberate: this preoccupation with surface texture is found in all his pictures of around 1630. Yet the Vienna picture succeeds by the mood it creates. The subject is one of prime importance for Jewish as well as Christian history - the final and irrevocable loss of the Jews' holiest place - and Poussin has concentrated on the mood of wanton destruction.

This is the second version of The Destruction of the Temple by Poussin, the first version has come down to us only in an engraving. Here the individual scenes are framed between the regular succession of huge columns. It is evident that the artist has already begun to study Rome's ancient monuments, as a comparison with antique sculptures such as the Trophies of Marius reveals.