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.
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