DISPLAY AND CONSERVATION
To avoid deterioration, the drawing must be conserved in a light- and temperature-controlled environment. For this reason, drawings and prints are not always on permanent display.
STUDIES FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM
In 2017, the Cabinet of Prints and Drawings of the Gallerie dell’Accademia acquired 18 drawings by Francesco Hayez: 17 preparatory sketches for the large canvas painting of The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem plus a study by Hayez for an as-yet unidentified historical subject. This important group adds to another six preparatory drawings by Francesco Hayez for the same work which the Gallerie dell’Accademia already owned.
Hayez, who was Venetian by birth and education, is doubtless one of the main exponents of Italian Romanticism and one of the most important nineteenth-century European artists. His indisputable creative stature allowed him to experiment with different genres, but it was arguably in the area of historical composition that he reached the utmost conceptual heights in his production. This genre could be invested with modern civic values, thus contributing to the creation of the identity of a people, just as Giuseppe Verdi had done in music.
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”.
The devolpment of the painting, presented in Brera in 1867 and greeted favourably by the critics, was long and laborious, showing just how much Hayez cared for the project. The work highlights the dramatic plight of the Jewish people under the yoke of a foreign power, an emblem of what the recently liberated Italian population had been subjected to. The overall layout transmits an awesome visual force. The episode of the destruction of the temple is given when the carnage is at its height, the building already engulfed in flames, and the destructive fury at its climax. Nothing can escape the violence, which can not even be stopped by the emperor Titus, isolated in a white tunic with red mantle and in heavy silence as he looks on the scene.
The composition contains a multitude of figures studied at length, great care lavished on their position and gestures. The drawings on display here, along with those that are already well-known (the six already in the Gallerie dell’Accademia collections and the two large groups housed at the Accademia in Brera and the design collections at Castello Sforzesco in Milan) are testament to the complexity of the elaboration and evolution of the gradual refining through myriad solutions that aimed to best communicate the different expressive typologies, the gestures, and the mood of the winners and losers, of the victims and executioners. In some cases, there is an exact correspondence between drawings and portions of the painting itself; in others, however, there are elements that the author then disregarded. The drawings relating to the painting therefore allow us to shed light on Hayez’s work method and to use the many variations to reconstruct his creative genius.