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The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem is a masterpiece from the painter’s later activity, a sort of spiritual testament that he emblematically decided to donate to the Accademia in Venice, justifying this by writing “as testament to my grateful memory of my early studies undertaken at this Royal Institution of the Accademia di Belle Arti […] happy to donate one of my latest works to a place where my earliest exist”. Along with the painting titled The Last Moments of Doge Marin Faliero, intended for the Brera Accademia where the Venetian artist had taught for a good part of his life, this painting must be considered a spiritual testament.
The work, for which we have copious preparatory drawings, had a very lengthy gestation. The painter began the work in 1860 and finished it in 1867, when the painting was exhibited in Brera to critical acclaim. The visually striking composition depicts the destruction of the temple at the very moment the carnage is at its height, the building already engulfed in flames and the destructive fury at its climax. The scene tells the story of the dramatic plight of the Jewish people deprived of freedom and, as had already happened with Verdi’s Nabucco, the painting became a metaphor for the injustices suffered by Italians and stood for the values of the Risorgimento.
In December 2017, the museum acquired an important group of seventeen drawings pertaining to The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (as well as a sheet that belongs to The Thirst Suffered by the First Crusaders in Jerusalem), which complemented the other six already in the Gallerie collections.