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Gustav Bauernfeind (Austrian, 1848-1904)
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Gustav Bauernfeind (Austrian, 1848-1904)

Entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Gustav Bauernfeind (Austrian, 1848-1904)
Entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
signed and inscribed 'G. Bauernfeind München' (lower right)
oil on panel
40 x 27½ in. (101.6 x 69.8 cm.)
J. A. Cooling & Sons, London.
Mr. Thomas H. Stephens
Mrs. Evelyn Greenslade Stephens.
Bequeathed by the above to the present owners in 1932 in memory of Thomas H. Stephens.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 May 1999, lot 164.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

Dating from his first visit to Palestine in 1880, Gustav Bauernfeind had been captivated by the view through the Bâb el Kattanîn (Cotton Market Gate) that is portrayed in Entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The genesis of this impressive composition can be traced to a letter written by Bauernfeind to his relatives in Beirut during his second trip to the Middle East (1884-7). Living first in Damascus, he then moved to Jaffa, where he was not entirely settled, as he confides in the letter: "...…Now the precise reason for this is that I can easily find the sort of human types here that I can use, but no interesting architectural backgrounds. I have subjects enough for big pictures but not for small ones of the type that the Englishman [Arthur Sulley, his London dealer] would prefer. I have just begun a new picture - Jews at the Entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem [another version of the same painting executed in 1886]. I am not flattering myself when I say that the conception is very good indeed. A group of Jews stand at the gate (the one with whose watercolour study you are familiar), their heads thrust slightly forward as they peer into the paradisiacal sun-drenched precinct within, with its gleaming domes and coloured tiles and marbled walls, which once had formed their most sacred national shrine; whereas now, seated before that very portal, sword in hand, the gatekeeper (I nearly called him the Temple watchman) bars their way. Within, Mohammedans dressed in vivid costumes stroll, sit, loll about, and the like. A fine contrast, don't you think?" (A. Carmel and H. Schmid, The Life and Work of Gustav Bauernfeind: Orientalist Painter, Stuttgart, 1990, p. 101).
Looking east, this painting portrays the striking Temple Mount, formerly the site of Solomon's Temple and its successors sacred to the Jews. It is today occupied by the Dome of the Rock, which was built between AD 685 and 691 by the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan as a mashhad, or shrine, for pilgrims. Additionally known as the Mosque of Omar, it is the oldest extant Islamic monument from which The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven. And in Jewish tradition, it is here that Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. His fascination with this historical building and its surroundings has been well documented in a number of impressive works. As Bauernfeind mentioned in his letter, there exists a watercolour of this exact view, but without figures, dated the same year, and there is also a larger more populated oil, painted while he was in Jerusalem in 1886 during his second trip to the Middle East. However, this painting of Jews at the Entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is one of several known versions painted in Munich in 1893-5 before the artist left Germany permanently to settle in Palestine, and was the only image of this location that was met with great critical acclaim and has remained arguably the artist's most famous work.


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