- Museum number
- Object: The Destruction of Jerusalem
The Destruction of Jerusalem; Prophets on clouds in the centre; angels blowing trumpets in the below; Roman army to right; after a painting by Kaulbach now in the Neue Pinakothek, Munich; proof before letters.
Engraving on chine collé
- Production date
- 1852 (completed)
Height: 833 millimetres (plate)
Width: 938 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present huge engraving is a tour de force of printmaking of the Romantic era: it represents the composition of Kaulbach`s monumental painted canvas `The Destruction of Jerusalem`, 6 x 7 m, completed in 1852, the same year in which the present print was published and acquired by the British Museum (described in department's acquisition register as the artist`s proof). The contemporaneity of the completion of painting and print is explained by the fact that such reproductive prints were usually made from the full-scale cartoon which in this case was begun in 1837 on commission from Fuerstin Angelina Radziwill. The employment of the cartoon allowed the print to be made independently of progress on the painted composition and with the advantage that cartoon and engraving have an equivalent graphic quality. Merz would have traced important details from the cartoon to guarantee the accuracy of his print.
Kaulbach`s first patron of this composition, Fuerstin Radziwill, was related by marriage to Graf Atanazy Raczynski, the Prussian diplomat of Polish extraction and famed patron of Nazarene artists who had earlier commissioned from Kaulbach `The Battle of the Huns`, the completion of which in 1837 established the artist`s reputation (for Julius Thaeter`s 1837 engraving after this composition, see 1853,0312.539). King Ludwig of Bavaria took over Kaulbach`s `Destruction` commission in 1841, ordering a painting from the cartoon for the suitably princely sum of 35,000 guilders (see O. Zirk, `Kaulbach, Wilhelm ` in `Neue Deutsche Biographie` 11 (1977), pp.356-357 [online version] and K. Kalinowski and C. Heilmann (eds), exhib.cat., 'Sammlung Graf Raczynski. Malerei der Spaetromantik aus dem Nationalmuseum Poznan', Munich, 1992, p.41). Given the demands of Kaulbach`s ever increasing artistic success, the resulting painting took many years to complete but was given pride of place in Ludwig`s Neue Pinakotehek in Munich. Kaulbach was commissioned to produce a second version of the same subject as a mural in the stairwell of the Neues Museum in Berlin, 1847-65, destroyed in WWII (see A. Menke, 'Wilhelm von Kaulbach' in 'Grove Art Online').
Merz worked 1848-52 on the present engraving (H. Holland, `Merz, Heinrich` in `Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie` (1885), pp.482-483 [online version] - where it is described as a `Farbstich` (`colour-engraving`), a reference to the way in which the print succeeds in conveying colouristic contrasts of tone achieved through the variation of extraordinarily fine engraved lines. While Merz was working on this engraving he was passed over in favour Julius Theater for the professorship at the Munich Art Academy, see Merz`s magnanimous letter to Thaeter of 1849 (published in A. Thaeter, `Julius Thaeter. Lebensbild eines deutschen Kupferstechers`, Frankfurt/M, 1887, pp. 62-3).
Anna Howitt, later to write an important biography of Friedrich Overbeck, saw `The Destruction` in Kaulbach`s Munich studio in 1850. The author subsequently gave a detailed description of the subject of the work in her 1853 publication `An Art Student in Munich`, vol.i., pp. 22-26; Howitt identifies the figure to lower left as the Wandering Jew: `Forth rushes he, lacerating his naked breast, a type of modern Judaism, and undying remorse: thus connecting the historical part of the Destruction of Jerusalem with the prophecy of Christ, in which the Destruction of Jerusalem is made a symbol of the Last Judgment, etc.` (p.25).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number