Harald Jerichau is one of those “artistes maudits”, “cursed artists”, like Vincent van Gogh or Camille Claudel. This very gifted painter had to walk into the footsteps of his artistic parents, especially of his intrepid mother.
Jerichau lived an adventurous career that made him travel through Turkey, not the simplest of destinations in those days.
In three years time he lost his wife, their baby and finally his own life. After a short, but promising career he died at the age of 27 in Rome. He was buried at the Protestant Cemetery of Rome, near other Romantic heroes like John Keats and Percy Byssche Shelley.
Jerichau painted our version of the Temple of Artemis in Sardis in 1873. He finished a second, larger version in 1878 (the very year that he died) and sold it to his main client Jacob Christian Jacobsen, the founder of the Carlsberg brewery.
Sardis in W. Turkey was the capital of King Croesus of Lydia in the 6th century BC. Later it became an important Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine town. Its Temple of Artemis was the fourth largest temple from the antique world. It had been started by the Greeks, the Romans enlarged it, but its construction was never finished. Jerichau painted the temple before it was excavated between 1910 and 1914.
About Harald Jerichau
Copenhagen 1851 – 1878 Rome
Son of the sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau (1816 – 1883) and the painter Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann (1819 – 1881). His brother, Holger (1861 – 1900), was also a painter.
Following drawing lessons of the architect C.V. Nielsen, a brief visit in 1868 at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts for the study of perspective and some painting lessons from F.C. Lund and Eiler Rasmussen Eilersen, Jerichau travelled with his mother to Italy.
In Rome Jerichau became a student of Jean-Achille Benouville, a French landscape painter who was then director of the French Academy of Rome.
Six months later he made a study trip to Turkey and Greece, he was in Paris in 1871, in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1872. After this he went back to Denmark (where he started exhibiting his paintings), returned to Paris, went to Switzerland and came back to Constantinople in 1874, this time with his mother.
In March 1875 Jerichau married his cousin, Maria Kutzner (the daughter of his mother’s sister) in Constantinople. The couple had been engaged from their earliest youth.
But then fate marked Jerichau’s further life. His first-born baby, a little boy, died after three months. The young couple moved to Naples, but a year later Maria suddenly died in November 1876 after a very short illness. Our painter, who had barely recovered from this new stroke, fell ill with a fierce combination of typhoid and malaria. He died at the start of March 1878 in Rome after a long and tragic period of suffering. He was buried at the Protestant cemetery of Rome (the Cimitero Acattolico near the Pyramid of Cestius).
About Jerichau’s mother
Jerichau’s mother was an intriguing artist and a very strong personality. She was born into a family of German origin in Warsaw and she studied painting in Dusseldorf, then one of the main artistic centres of Europe.
She moved to Rome, where she met her future husband, who was a sculptor. The couple lived for three years in Rome, before moving to Copenhagen in 1849. Elisabeth was not well received by the nationalistically oriented Danish art world. But she had success in France and in 1852 Queen Victoria of England had requested a private presentation during an exhibition in London.
In 1869/1870 Elisabeth left her seven children (she had also lost two children in infancy) with her husband in Denmark and she travelled extensively in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Middle East. She painted daring sensual harem scenes and princesses’ portraits, as she had access to the harem of Prince Mustapha Fazil Pasha.
As already mentioned she travelled abroad on several occasions with her son Harald.
About our painting
Jerichau has painted a view of the few remains of the Temple of Artemis, before it was excavated between 1910 and 1914 by a Princeton University team.
The two standing Ionic columns at right had also not yet been unearthed: one third of the stone blocks of which these slender columns were made up were still under ground. The small, early Christian church behind the two columns was also not yet visible.
He painted this view in 1873. In 1878, the very year that he died, Jerichau finished in Rome a much larger composition of the same theme. It was bought by Jacob Christian Jacobsen (1811 – 1887), the founder of the Carlsberg brewery in the outskirts of Copenhagen, and a well-known patron of the arts. In 1879, a year after Jerichau had passed away, Jacobsen organised an exhibition in Copenhagen of Turkish scenes that he had commissioned to Jerichau, among these the large Sardis scene. Jacobsen presented the large version of the Temple of Artemis to the Royal Painting Collection, now the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, that is the National Gallery of Denmark, where it is still exhibited.
Sardis, in present-day W. Turkey, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It is situated at the foot of Mount Tmolus in the fertile Hermus valley, 70 km landward from the important Mediterranean harbour town of Izmir (Smyrna).
The Kingdom of Lydia existed from circa 1200 BC until 546 BC, when it was conquered by the Persians. Sardis was the kingdom’s last capital, during the 7th and 6th century BC. Its last king, Croesus was by far its most famous.
It remained an important city in the Persian, Roman and Byzantine empires.
About the Temple of Artemis
The chaste huntress Artemis was the important Greek goddess of hunt, but also of virginity, chastity and of childbirth. Her Roman name was Diana. She was the twin sister of Apollo, the prophetic (the Oracle of Delphi) god of the sun and of medicine.
After the Persian conquest came Alexander the Great and the rise of the Hellenistic kingdoms. Sardis became the W. capital of the Greek, Seleucid empire. The Seleucids started building the Temple of Artemis on the site of an earlier sanctuary around 300 BC in the Ionic order. Ionic capitals are characterized by the use of volutes. In the second quarter of the 2nd century a project was started to enlarge the temple, but this phase was never finished. The earthquake of 17 AD seriously damaged the construction. Partial completion only came with the third phase circa 150 AD, when it served as a temple of the imperial cult of Antoninus Pius and his wife.
The Temple of Artemis was the fourth largest temple in the antique world. It was twice as large as the Parthenon in Athens. Although it remained in use for over 800 years it was never finished.
Its two complete columns have remained intact since Antiquity. They were never restored.
Limited excavations were made in 1750, 1882 and 1904. The temple was fully exposed between 1910 and 1914.
About Croesus, the last king of Lydia
Under the rule of Croesus, Lydia attained its greatest splendour. The expression "as rich as Croesus" comes from the legendary wealth of the king who reigned from 560 to 546 BC. Lydian metallurgists had discovered how to separate gold from silver, so that Lydian coins became internationally popular, also in the neighbouring states.
The fame of the splendid court of Croesus at Sardis attracted many visitors. One of them was Solon, the wise Athenian lawgiver. The king proudly displayed his treasures and asked Solon who was the happiest man that he had met. Solon does not name Croesus, instead he answered that he could call no man happy until his life had ended and that humble people were often more content than the wealthiest kings. Croesus thought he was a fool, but the story of his further life would prove that Solon had been right. After Solon left Lydia the gods had great misfortune in store for Croesus. Cyrus the Great of Persia, extending his vast domains, was soon threatening the kingdom of Lydia. Croesus consulted the oracle of Delphi in Greece. The oracle replied: "If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire." So Croesus went out to meet the army of Cyrus and was utterly defeated in 546 BC: by going to war he destroyed his own great empire.
The story goes on to relate that Cyrus ordered Croesus to be burned alive. When Croesus saw the flames creeping upward to consume him, he remembered the words of the wise Solon and cried out, "O Solon! Solon! Solon!" For only now had Croesus understood the lesson of Solon: “fate can bring misery to a rich man and happiness to a poor man”.
Supposedly Cyrus was so moved by the story of how Solon had warned the proud king that he ordered Croesus to be released. Croesus asked the proud king "what your soldiers are doing now?", showing the Persian soldiers taking all the treasures and destroying everything; Cyrus replied "They are plundering your city"; then Croesus said "They are not plundering my city, it's your city now and your soldiers are destroying your city". After that short conversation Cyrus the Great stopped his soldiers ... .
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a magnificent, poetic view of untouched, ancient, classical ruins in the Ottoman Empire, testifying of the adventurous character of our travelling young painter.