The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Islamic monument that stands today and certainly one of the most beautiful. The shrine was built in the year 637 A.D and was completed in 691-692 A.D., making it the oldest existing Islamic building in the world. The shrine was intended to compete with many fine buildings of worship and rival Christian domes of its time.
The number of artists that travelled to Jerusalem to paint it reflected the keen interest with which Victorian public viewed images of the Holy City. As one critic remarked in his review of the 1845 Royal Academy exhibit by David Roberts , ‘The Jerusalem … seems his most popular landscape, possibly owing to the subject, which will never cease to be sought for with eager and reverential curiosity’ (The Athenaeum, 17 May 1845, p. 496). Since Jerusalem remains a holy site for Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, this sentiment is as pertinent today as it was more than a century and a half ago.
From Alfred Edward Emslie’s vantage point can be seen the site of the temple, then to the east on the left hand side is the 6th century Dome of Chain (Qubat es-Silsila), a domed hexagon with open arches, it is adjacent to the eastern gate of the Dome of Rock, and marks the exact centre of the Temple Mount. It is the only structure on the east side of the raised platform. Then further in the distance to the left of the artwork can be seen the Mount of Olives.
Emslie witnessed during Easter, Christian pilgrims from all parts of the East assemble at Jerusalem, from whence, accompanied by the Governor, and escorted by a strong guard, they proceeded in a body to bathe in the river Jordan.
This panoramic view by Emslie is unusual in that he does not divide a dark foreground from a bright background. Instead he captures the sense of heat and light that covers the whole Temple area and then catches on the sides of the city dwellings. A solitary figure in the foreground is added to give a sense of scale to this vast place.
Emslie infuses the scene with soft colours in one half and burning colours to the other, a vast sky, and a consistent level of detail throughout the picture. To the right is the vast city sprawling out with buildings packed together.