|Published||London Published Feb 1, 1831, by Jennings & Chaplin, 62 Cheapside|
|Dimensions||Image 480 x 700 mm, Sheet 615 x 830 mm|
An early impression of Martin's epic depiction of Satan, enthroned before his demonic council in the hellish capital of Pandaemonium. The scene illustrates the first stanza of Book 2 of Milton's Paradise Lost. The fallen angel, beautiful and terrible in equal measure, wears a radiate crown, an ironic reflection of his former role as the bringer of light, with a piece of heavy cloth draped over his shoulder. His throne, decorated with a frieze of the opulence of worldly kings, sits atop an enormous globe, a perverse mockery of the figure of Christ Pantokrator. Behind him, in the cavernous dark, the hordes of hell are seated in exultation, listening to their leader's newest plot to bring about the corruption of creation. A single shaft of light illuminates the King of Hell himself, while the monumental architecture of his arena is lit only by the witch lights that hang in circles in the vaults.
Inscription below image reads: HIGH ON A THRONE OF ROYAL STATE WHICH FAR / OUTSHONE THE WEALTH OF ORMUS AND OF IND, / OR WHERE THE GORGEOUS EAST WITH RICHEST HAND / SHOW'RS ON HER KINGS BARBARIC PEARL AND GOLD / SATAN EXHALTED SAT, BY MERIT RAISED / TO THAT BAD EMINENCE; AND FROM DESPAIR / THUS HIGH UPLIFTED BEYOND HOPE, ASPIRES / BEYOND THUS HIGH, INSATIATE TO PURSUE / VAIN WAR WITH HEAVEN; AND BY SUCCESS UNTAUGHT / HIS PROUD IMAGINATIONS THUS DISPLAY'D.
John Martin (1789-1854) was an English painter, illustrator and mezzotint engraver. He achieved huge popular acclaim with his historical landscape paintings which featured melodramatic scenes of apocalyptic events taken from the Bible and other mythological sources. Influenced by the work of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) as well as Theodore Gericault (1791-1824), Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), his paintings are characterised by dramatic lighting and vast architectural settings. Most of his pictures were reproduced in the form of engravings, and book engravings, from which he derived his fortune. Despite his popularity, Martin's work was spurned by the critics, notably John Ruskin, and he was not elected to the Royal Academy. His fame declined rapidly after his death, although three of his best known works of religious art toured Britain and America in the 1870s: The Great Day of his Wrath (1853, Tate, London), The Last Judgment (1853, Tate) and The Plains of Heaven (1851-3, Tate). A great contributor to English landscape painting, Martin was a key influence on Thomas Cole (1801-48), one of the founding members of the Hudson River School.
Jennings & Chaplin was a British publishing firm active between 1830 and 1839. Established by Robert Jennings and William Chaplin they worked from 62 Cheapside, London.
CW 87, Campbell, Visionary Printmaker, p.111.
Condition: Good dark impression, trimmed just outside the plate. Two small repaired scuff marks to top right of image and one to the top left of image. Light staining to the margins and inscription space not affecting the image, lines of text to bottom left of sheet rubbed. Small tear to bottom left corner of sheet.