207
207

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

John Martin
THE CITY OF GOD AND THE WATERS OF LIFE
Schätzung
50.00070.000
Los Verkauft 137,000 GBP (Hammerpreis mit Käuferprovision)
ZU LOS SPRINGEN
207

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

John Martin
THE CITY OF GOD AND THE WATERS OF LIFE
Schätzung
50.00070.000
Los Verkauft 137,000 GBP (Hammerpreis mit Käuferprovision)
ZU LOS SPRINGEN

Old Masters Day Sale

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London

John Martin
HAYDON BRIDGE, NORTHUMBERLAND 1789 - 1854 DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN
THE CITY OF GOD AND THE WATERS OF LIFE

Provenienz

Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 14 March 1984, lot 97 (as by Martin but wrongly catalogued);
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 27 May 1987, lot 356 (as attributed to Martin and wrongly catalogued), where acquired by the present owner.

Katalognotizen

This rare and important painting dates to circa 1850–51, during the artist’s full maturity, and belongs to a group of pictures that Martin produced over a number of years in preparation for his celebrated The Last Judgment series – the great triptych that was to be his final masterpiece. Martin spent many years developing the compositions that were to become the three paintings that are for many his defining legacy: The Last Judgment, The Plains of Heaven and The Great Day of His Wrath (all Tate Britain, London). This painting relates specifically to the composition of the second of these pictures The Plains of Heaven, painted in 1851–53, and together with a number of other sketches and preparatory paintings demonstrates that picture’s long gestation out of Martin’s earlier 1820s sequence of works based upon Milton’s Paradise Lost. Originating with his first two versions of Heaven – The Rivers of Bliss, worked out in mezzotint in 1824/25,1 the composition for The Plains of Heaven was further developed in the 1830s and early 40s in various derivations of The Celestial City – which culminated with the glorious 1841 Royal Academy exhibition piece The Celestial City and the River of Bliss that was recently sold in these rooms, 8 July 2015, lot 57 for £2.7 million (Private Collection). Here Martin progresses with a number of characteristic motifs found in these and other earlier works; extrapolating, for example, the rocky outcrop found in the upper central part of his 1826 painting of The Deluge (untraced but known from the engraving published in 1828) towards what would become The Plains of Heaven. The two figures, one with arm outstretched, silhouetted against the celestial light are characteristic of Martin’s work throughout his life. So too are the ornate gilt barges, placidly floating on the dark waters, which first appear in Martin’s work in the late 1820s and become more and more elaborate on each occasion. The prows of these barges are almost identical to that of the ship in which Jesus is seen commanding the waters in Christ Stilleth the Tempest of 1852 (York City Art Gallery).

Unlike his earlier Paradise Lost pictures, however, the subject here is taken from Revelation, chapter XXI, illustrating verses 3 and 23: ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with men… And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light’. It therefore charts not only the progress in Martin’s compositional structure as he worked towards The Last Judgment series, but also the evolution of his creative inspiration. Unfinished at the time of the artist’s death in 1854 it is likely to have passed to one of his family as only two of his remaining oil paintings were included in the auction of his house contents later that year. Some scholars believe that the foliage in the lower right, as well as the three figures at the shore, were added posthumously by another hand – most likely one of the artist’s three sons, all of whom John Martin taught to paint. An exceptionally popular artist in his own lifetime, John Martin’s oil paintings are extremely rare, the vast majority of them being in public institutions, and very few of his visionary works such as this remain in private hands.

We are grateful to Michael J. Campbell for endorsing the attribution to John Martin and for his assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.

1. M. J. Campbell, John Martin. Visionary Printmaker, York 1992, nos C.W.47 and C.W.71.

Old Masters Day Sale

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London