This little gem by the famous Dutch illustrator and engraver Jan Luyken was created during the final years of the tumultuous 17th century at the height of Luyken’s career. It was executed in pen and black ink, and the artist uses both grey-washing and highlighting in pure white to enhance the emotional impact of his composition.
The motif is a highly stylized rendition of ancient Jerusalem, and the drama of the moment is palpably evident. Standing on a raised vantage point, one looks across the Holy City. Despite being rich in detail, most of these are quickly revealed as figments of Luyken’s vivid imagination and profound religiosity. Luyken was generally known for producing historical and religious images that exuded fervor and zeal. This particular image was most likely part of a broader commission. The best explanation is that it was compiled as a study for the engravings that Luyken produced for the Mortier Bible, published in 1700.
We see a walled square within which Jerusalem is laid out as a circular city, where all roads lead to a central elevated rock. This rock is undoubtedly a representation of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. A holy light emanates from this central feature, revealing it as an earthly interstice with the Divine. Nine gates pierce the curtain wall and lead to a spacious interior where only about a third of the available space has been built up. Looking down from an elevated rock promontory outside the city, we find two angels observing the city in the upper right corner of the image.
This document is a unique piece of historical art, a landscape drawing marked by the urgency and intensity of Luyken’s religious fervor.