Lecture 10 - Handwriting on the Wall: John Martin's Belshazzar's FeastApr 26, 2023
Three weeks ago we talked about this painting at the British art center The Death of Lucretia by Scottish artist Gavin Hamilton a true milestone of neoclassical high drama and pathos lights sighs figures simply charged with moral fervor the image we are going to talk about today hangs at about ten paces away it is also full of fervor and ambitious but in very different ways it is also much smaller it is only about four feet wide let's look at it a bit the picture shows the palace of Belshazzar the king of Babylon and it is the climactic episode of his life for that episode I am going to read to you what his first audience in 1821 was able to read a part of the Old Testament book of Daniel in the King James version extracted from a pamphlet written by the organizer of an exhibition, no doubt in collaboration with the artist who sold himself to the visitors of the painting Belshazzar the King made a great banquet for a thousand of his Lords and drank wine before the thousand Belshazzar while tasting the wine ordered to bring the gold and silver vessels that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple that was in Jerusalem the king and his princes and his wives and his concubines could drink there in them they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver bronze iron wood and stone in the same hour came the ring fingers of the hand of a man and they wrote on the lampstand on the plaster of the
wallof the king's palace and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote and then the king's face changed and his thoughts troubled him so that the joints of his loins became they let go and their knees were knocking against each other, the king shouted loudly to bring the astrologers that the children and the fortune tellers and the king said that whoever reads this scripture and shows me its interpretation will be clothed in scarlet and she will have a a gold necklace around her neck and she will be the third ruler in the kingdom then all the king's wise men came in but they could not read the writing or take note of the king's interpretation of it so they said to the queen there is a man named Daniel whom the King Nebuchadnezzar your father made a teacher of musicians and Chaldean astrologers and fortune tellers now call Daniel and he will show the interpretation then Daniel was called to interpret the writing on the
walland this was the interpretation of the same principal to principal to tickle that seen from afar This is the interpretation of the main thing God has counted your kingdom and has finished it take it or you are weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting that seen from afar my kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians on that night Belshazzar, the king of children, was assassinated, the episode took place while the Israelites were captives in Babylon.
The story is about the pride that precedes the fall. The sinful pride of the Babylonian kings. took the Jews captive and led them back to Babylon but also looted the Temple in Jerusalem and took the holy vessels as booty and not just the vessels here but as seen in Martin's rendering anyway and the menorah as well Belshazzar compounds the sin that he has the vessels brought and he and his courtiers eat and drink from them an act of blatant blasphemy the Israelite prophet Daniel who is the author and hero of the story writes that he was called to the top to interpret the words of God announcing the destruction of the king and his empire, Martin conceives of the palace and Babylon within it as an immense courtyard with columns and beyond three huge cantilevered arches another large hall with long tables above and beyond are more terrorist buildings and a stepped tower ziggurat next to it is an even bigger round tower the tower of babel and the hanging gardens are also there in the dark there to the right to the left there is a storm with lightning and clouds swirling around the towers hanging on the sky is the moon and a planet in conjunction Oh, signaling an important event, everyone is reacting to that fiery message on the wall or Daniel's prophecy.
More Interesting Facts About,
lecture 10 handwriting on the wall john martin s belshazzar s feast...
The booklet I mentioned sold to visitors describes Belshazzar. The king's astonishment is powerfully reflected in the interesting but haughty features of his face. there with a strong feeling of anger and spiteful wickedness the huge golden throne is prophetically empty in the foreground bearded men in long robes point towards the bright light acting amazed several of them have a huge scroll with which they are trying to understand the meaning of the hebrew words but they are failing no one can hide from the light you see that general panic and the courtyard hundreds of ant eyed figures some of which on the far right here of this slide are making burnt offerings to the colossal golden statue of a man with armor wrapped in a serpent this is Marduk the main Babylonian deity in the middle the head table is set with tremendous gold and silver vessels from Jerusalem but dinner has been interrupted before it started people make prayer gestures and listen to Daniel the The pamphlet tells of Daniel, a captive on the banks of the Euphrates, living apart from society and yet well known at the Babylonian court, here he is more appropriately represented as an elderly man with that surly appearance which never leaves for nothing. complete the countenance of an exile.
He is the main character in the drama the pamphlet continues the group of which he is the prominent figure assuming the pyramid shape now becomes the focus of interest and in a pictorial point of view this part of the performance gets all the effect that the artist never could I have anticipated with the warmest hope of his enthusiastic mind, well, who exactly was John Martin the man with the enthusiastic mind and why a special booklet to explain and praise his image Belshazzar's party was a great success among the Public and not just immediately in 1821 but for many years afterward, Martin brought to life a moment of high drama from a famous Bible story, concocting an exciting setting for it, grand and painstakingly detailed, adding special effects.
I'm going back to the
martinrace, but for now I just want to stay. with the painting for a few minutes and its role in the history of narrative painting and a visual spectacle Martin first painted a larger version of this composition and exhibited it at the British institution in 1821 it attracted so many visitors that barriers were put up in front of it him and it was decided to extend the duration of the program for a couple of weeks, one of the critics called the picture glorious and another said that Martin should be elected to the Royal Academy and the directors of the Institute awarded Martin £200. they could afford it, as they had made an extra thousand pounds from the extra admission fees brought in by the Belshazzar and the sale of brochures.
The artists who wrote about the image had mixed opinions. Most of them felt a combination of admiration and resistance. wrote that it has made more noise among the masses than any picture has been exhibited since I have been here, yet artists and insiders did not like it as much as other pictures in the show, Belshazzar was for sale and sold for a strong offer. price £800 21 William Collins, who had plans for it as soon as the show was over, Collins took it to his premises in the Strand and exhibited it along with another Old Testament painting by Martin which had been a great success a few years earlier , Joshua ordered the Sun to stop, then Collins sent the pictures to Scotland in 1822 with the claim that it had already been seen by a thousand people and after that the tour began in earnest, two drives to Liverpool Dublin back to Edinburgh and Glasgow a In Bristol and almost every major city in the British Isles, that pamphlet ended up going through 45 editions.
Attendance for the first four years was high due to hype and word of mouth and a few years later it got a boost from airplay sales. when Martin published this large net, so the dye engraving, Collins was not very pleased, he tried to sue the painter for violation of rights as an owner, but Martin had not actually used the large version of Collins and said that he had used one of the two smaller ones. versions he painted with reproduction in mind, the one now at Yale that we have been looking at and the other at Hartford, both very accurate, Martin had learned to make magnificent engravings using new technology steel plates, plate plates that were durable and guaranteed that many hundreds of copies could be made from them without much loss of quality Belshazzar's party tour and printing were only the beginning of the image's commercial life Martin made a second plate and sold 400 more copies then went on to an engraver who was still printing and selling it even after Martin's death in 1854 we know of three other authorized versions and then there are a lot of clumsy scams like this one at the top and there were other versions that are interesting from the point of view of the new types of entertainment and media I just want to say a few words about what we now call 18th century new media which were big attractions in London, one of them at the top is the ID or fussy kong of the painter Philip do Luthor Brewer, which opened in Leicester Square in 1781 you paid your entrance fee and saw what were advertised as moving pictures depicting natural phenomena such as storms at sea, but what were moving words parts of the scene various pieces flat cut out with waves and boats, etc. moving up and down or back and forth and the lights were changing all the time below is the famous metropolis of 18 to buy thomas guertin the entrepreneurs were very good at naming things and making them up with you awesome titles for the greek names were the sign particularly from science at work even though i do fujiko and it just meant a picture of nature the one at the bottom here the metropolis i do was a 30 foot long panorama plus 360 view degrees of London like you paid to get in that surrounded you when you got in the middle as you looked at it turned around has been destroyed like the I do Lucic in but some of Gert's studies survive and that's what we're seeing in the screen painted panoramas such as this multiplied throughout Europe and America In the 19th century, John Martin seems to have been eager for the opportunity for his pictures to entertain audiences in a way that would not have reached the Royal Academy.
From 1833 a large painted copy of his Bell showers party was displayed in a diorama in the Queen's Bazaar in Oxford Street a diorama is an even newer type of visual entertainment where a translucent painting was displayed here you sat at the right here under some sort of marquee looking up at the image while the lights were manipulated to make the image change and appear to move as you look at dioramas. Dioramas have been popular since 1823 when the first was built in Paris by Louis Daguerre, the set designer and painter and later inventor of photography. diorama built in London in the same year at the Queen's Belshazzar's bizarre
feastwas shown in a double feature with another image and billed as Burning York Minster an object remains which gives an idea of the visual sensation that the translucent image of the Belshazzar's Feast produced this a painting at top left on glass by the specialist duo of Hoadley and Oldfield made at least four more copies of various paintings by Martin the newspapers carried the news that one of these glass paintings had been purchased by the Duke of Northumberland and another by an anonymous American speaking of Americans all sorts of other versions of the Hauser bell were shown in this country, including one in a diorama on North Street on North Street in Manhattan and the engravings were sold here in large quantities over many years with the most common being the color print issued by the latent brothers just after the Civil War can be found in guest rooms and closets throughout New England these exhibits can be seen in Britain techniques were used marketing campaigns taken from touring theater companies paid advertisements and newspapers seeded stories announcing the impending opening, dates and times and admission fees etc., and then as closing day approached more advertisements with breathless warnings of the last chance to see these sensational masterpieces.
John Martin is how you see the painter of Belshazzar's party and also that these are the most sublime and extraordinary paintings in the world valued at eight thousand guineas and that they measure 13 by 10 feet and that have been inspected by more than two million people every day. exhibits were open at night thanks to Gaslight which started as street lighting this is messy on the top left and recently moved indoors and was now in theaters and other public places Gaslight was strong and bright and must have made Martin the pictures they look even more vivid and stage II than they had in daylight our major candlelight that night openings meant workers could come not just leisure people and they came well have been giving a glimpse of the phenomenal Belle Chasse's success errs party and some of its context in show business.
I need to introduce JohnMartin, an 1834 critic who gave Martin's work a poor review. I wrote that he was, and I quote, the universally most popular painter of the time. He had a lot in common with Edward. bulwer-lytton his younger contemporary the author of The Last Days of Pompeii and other best-selling historical fiction books bulwer-lytton knew Martin and wrote that he was the greatest, highest and most original genius of his day . 19th century fable about the ambition of hard work and social mobility as opposed to bulwer-lytton who was born well and educated siCambridge Martin was born into poverty in a country house in Northumberland in the industrial north near Newcastle and the border Scottish.
Martin received very little formal education and was sent to work for a carriage painter and received instruction in side drawing then moved to London in 1860 eking out a living working for a porcelain manufacturer painting mainly landscape decorations and teaching drawing on the side nothing had prepared the London audience for the first painting that Martin showed at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1812 under the title Sadock in Search of the Waters of Oblivion an exotic subject treated in a suitably extravagant style the hero sadek is sent by the sultan to find and bring back the so called waters of oblivion which the sultan says will get a doctor's wife out of prison and there is the lone hero clinging to a rock shelf and he gets up needing to cross this lake to the burning mountain where the waters meet this painting says six feet tall of a diminutive figure in a loincloth on a fantastic mission struggling upwards in a hot jagged hostile world evidently made quite an impression on the audience, one critic wrote that the artist communicates with a great part of its energy the romantic ideas of its author, the theme would have a form that would offer a sublime treatment by the hand of Mr.
Turner Turner who had already shown the way for Martin Turner was 14 years older and had had a great success when Martin arrived in London, he had shown this image at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1800, the fifth plague of Egypt, which was the epidemic sent by Yahweh that killed all the animals of the pharaohs with a fancy Egyptian o Egypt or a City Mountains and a Troubled Sky Full of Impending Doom This was Turner's first fully romantic subject matter and Turner was able to learn from it Martin also learned from Turner's example how to make a living from engraved reproductions of his images, in fact these beautiful post-Turner encounters as tense as the one on the right were Martin's older brother Charles who made this his business the same year Martin displayed his sadaqah Turner sent this to the Royal Academy and an even more turbulent and hostile scene Turner set the precedent for this kind of lurid historical masterpiece and its success created a niche for Martin as a painter and printmaker.
I should point out that Turner wasn't painting from pure feeling or pure observation, I mean. that like every artist he had inherited a wealth of images and ideas from previous art and would have liked very much to recognize where his taste for remote and dangerous places came from, places like the stormy Alps. came largely from Salvator Rosa's 17th-century landscape photographs showing inhospitable places with jagged rocks broken trees torrential waters storm-laden clouds populated by reclusive types such as hermits doing penance and bandits hiding their loot in caves around 1700 the writer began to use a term borrowed from sublime classical rhetoric to describe this type of landscape and everyone's feelings and even the fear you might experience looking at them for sublime often referred to the Alps and other rugged places far from civilization where you might have very sensations Unlike the quiet comfort they got from the bucolic landscapes that they distinguished as beautiful, you could find the sublime at home.
Some of Martin's contemporaries were drawn to places of truly terrifying grandeur in Britain and made large-scale paintings to overwhelm the viewer. This is a place in the North Yorkshire Dales I called it goredale scar and the painting is about 11ft tall painted by James Ward right around the time of Sedaka's fantasy from Martin's Arabian Nights with a similar type of boiling clouds and an ominous tone these sublime and beautiful distinctions had been explored 50 years earlier by Edmund Burke who saw them sublime and beautiful as opposites as antithetical is definitely the sublime John Martin strives for not only the extremes in nature but also the extremes of human aspiration Martin's next triumph was this great painting that you saw a moment before of Joshua commanding the Sun to stand still over Gibeon a critic wrote about this a picture more amazing for the magnitude of the design and for the details we never saw another said that it was truly historical and political an accumulation of the great in nature and well we are in the image of Turner Hannibal and his men weathered an alpine snowstorm here Joshua asks the great Jehovah to hail the enemy army and even stop the sun to lengthen the day and give the Israelites time to mop up the Canaanite army Martin imagines Gibeon here the Canaanite city top right as a stupendous complex of buildings with domes and columns the real Gibeon was a fortress from the Age of Bronze made of adobe but Martin makes it a glorious capital like his Babylon if not It doesn't look like the real thing, it looks like something else though, and those are the architectural fantasies of this artist Joseph Gandhi, a painter and sloppy English architect who did renderings for the Great Architect John, sewed up the bottom, you can see a project x area for a triumphal bridge. and at the top, an idea of Gandhi's own invention, Satan's palace in Milton's epic Paradise Lost, which Milton called pandemonium.
Belle Chasse urges the party and, in the process, continues the tradition of imagining building schemes with a utopian flavor that emerged during the time of the revolution in France—for example, these dreamy schemes by boule at top left a library for France in the lower part a museum and a Hall of Fame and in the upper right part and by his contemporary LeDoux of a cemetery in an ideal city all the buildings of stupendous scale geometric perfection and impossible engineering the writing on the wall predicted belching asters death and losing their empire to the Medes and Persians, like you heard about, but we don't actually see this happen.
Martin took the next big step in his career and actually envisioned disruptive destruction on a scale no one had ever seen. These are the paintings for which Martin is best known. Today many of Martin's attendees had seen paintings like the one here to the left of the recent eruptions of Vesuvius painted by Joseph Wright of Derby as a generation before Martin, which made it wonderful and terrifying, and there were paintings of the heroic historical eruption of 79 AD that buried pompeii and herculaneum and what it might have been like for its desperate victims like that of pure only to Val CN on screen in 1822 Martin painted the entire ancient disaster according to the eyewitness account of many younger to see Martin's new image you didn't go to the Royal Academy commands the swarthy British institution but went along Piccadilly to the Egyptian Hall this was a commercial exhibition venue in Piccadilly with a myriad of attractions ups and downs a couple of years earlier for a shilling you could have seen Jericho's Raft of the Medusa fresh from its Paris salon debut or against a scenic backdrop a couple of years later you could have seen a family of Lapps from Norway who had bought a reindeer with them so their son could have a sleigh ride some kind of sleigh ride Martin's painting aimed at the gut you get the beautiful horror of the eruption the sky darkening the sun hiding behind the blood red clouds huge waves tearing apart the Roman fleet is also full of poignant detail the crowds of refugees struggling to climb to higher ground soldiers trying to protect their wives and children from the hot ash right of center in the in the back is the naval commander and great naturalist much the oldest was his nephew much the youngest who wrote that his uncle had sailed into the bay to watch the spectacle and landed near stubby where he was overcome by poison gas from the mountain and he died and Martin shows him collapsing in the arms of his pomponian friend he knows Martin's formula is familiar from Belshazzar's
feasta gripping drama great accuracy in Representing things and people his audience has heard of, but as Martin himself which I have never seen with Pompey, is a spectacle caused not by God, but by nature, uncontrollable and deadly, and its popular entertainment was irresistible.
Some 50,000 people saw it at Salon Egipcio, so the claim went ahead anyway and got good reviews in the press. I will only cite one. It is a powerful speech. Imagination and on a subject that allowed the artist to enjoy all the latitude of his conceptions. The horror of the scene is a lot. augmented by the destruction of shipping and the receding and churning of the sea, the utter helplessness of man is shown in various ineffectual efforts of human beings striving in vain to escape the general calamity. Martin has added it to the record of catastrophe historians who realized all the horror that the most vivid fantasy could paint, ensures that Martin was getting credit for being both horrible and correct a dozen years later, the Martin's friend, Bulwer-lytton, published his novel The Last Days. of Pompeii and its heroine Lydia nidia I should say that it displaced the photo of Martin as the defining popular image of the event thanks mainly to this marble sculpture based on the book a car by Randolph Rogers this is Nydia the blind slave who luckily had a excellent hearing leading others through the darkness to safety from around the time of the destruction of Pompeii for about 12 years Martin was busy with other projects including etching he became so adept at metso dye technique that he was hired to produce two dozen illustrations for Paradise Lost and another smaller format set and then began keeping the proceeds doing the printing at home, published print versions of his most popular painting, and released a series of large prints illustrating the bible, mostly original compositions or reworkings of earlier ones, the emphasis I must say was on a catastrophe and this became divine retribution for Martin's actions for human sin in all its forms, having enriched himself from the sale of paintings and engravings.
For the next ten years, Martin spent much of his time designing civil engineering. projects he proposed a sewage system and a water purification project for London on top the sludge from sewage would be collected and sent out of the city as fertilizer he also proposed a railway around the city linking its main attractions the population London tripled in Martin's lifetime, resulting in appalling housing and sanitation conditions for many people and Martin's schemes which he proposed to be privately funded would certainly have improved lives, but Parliament refused to go along with it and they were left nothing before we return to Belshazzar's party.
I need to show you the most ambitious projects. works from Martin's career that take us to the end of his life each of these trio of paintings has a stupendous image of destruction at its center this one you know is across the road at the british art center is about the flood in Genesis starting with the deluge itself this version of the scene is dated 1834 and comes very close to the 1826 original which has been lost, you see in the picture that Martin not only shows rising waters, it shows a huge storm, an earthquake in the one who swims is Stable the longest People are forced out onto this sloping platform of rock, some in the foreground are trying to climb, while in the distance, large crowds on the edge, you are about to be lashed by this tsunami that is rolling towards them.
The Sun is almost bought. it goes out but illuminates the tiny tiny ark that is perched on a ledge just below it and the moon illuminates the collapse of the mountain itself that will fall in a moment a painting is hard to describe hard to decipher on the screen and even harder is sometimes in the original we fortunately have the help of Martins's large engraving of 1828 which allows us to see, among other things, the cave on the right where people have fled for refuge and the huge crowds in the distance, waiting for their doom to come.
The painting didn't really get any particular notice at the Royal Academy and didn't sell, it was sent to France and was shown in the 1835 cell, where it won a gold medal and some pretty good press and some not so good. described a unanimous chorus of praise from visitors aperson said shouting who oh what an admirable talent biblical talent an apocalyptic couple etc etc gochi admired the prince of Martin but until now he said he had not seen his paintings and gave his opinion on the deluge which was fabulously bad all that Cataclysm and the scene of the crowd was something new in the pictures of the deluge.
I should point out that they go back to the Italian Renaissance, including Michelangelo, and almost invariably use a few figures or a family group to express the pathos. of approaching death for every person on earth, both the innocent and the sinners, this is Nicola Pusa, he does it in his famous image of 816 64, and so does Turner, who provides more of everything, more figures, more rain or wind and rising waters, but nothing. Compared to Martin's epic image of nature gone mad later, Martin added to the deluge companion pieces, one being the title of the deluge eve painted for Prince Albert, where the gains gather here on a small cliff and they predict the coming punishment of humanity the other one is called the rapid movement of the waters now in the San Francisco Museum the view is from the top of mount Ararat the top which is almost covered by water that we have to imagine thousands and thousands of feet and there is a white dub picking up the olive branch that he will deliver to the ark somewhere in the receding ocean one last catastrophe literally the last is at the end of the world
martinmakes a picture of the words of revelation from st.
John about it which is called the great day of his wrath the title of the image when the sixth seal is opened and there is an earthquake and the sun turns black and the moon turns red and all the islands of the mountain are dislodged and all the mighty of the earth hide in caves is a vision of disorder that is literally and maniacally accurate in every detail in the usual pamphlet Martin says that the great and main characteristic of these productions is that they tend to inspire religious sentiments and inculcate the desire to live morally and make good ecclesiastical groups and school groups were brought to this show to be edified like the flood this had a before and after the final judgment up here and the plans of heaven below the three ended in 1853 and left tour along with the usual flyer Glasgow and Edinburgh First, then a long tour of the provincial towns thanks to the railways which had vastly expanded their network in the last ten years.
It was reported that after two years of travel, Martin's pictures had had over two million visitors and the tour then moved on to more cities. who had bid for the privilege in 1857 came to New York accompanied by large parcels of print reproductions at least one sophisticated critic saw something a bit comical and the whole pay-per-view arrangement as well as perhaps manipulative in the paintings This article appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine. The indescribable joke of climbing two flights of stairs and gradually through the darkening gloom of Bay's thick tapestries approaching the penetrating wood of mysteries. fourth, a thoughtful clerk who takes his little name for his little subscription the gas is pouring all its glow over the pictures in all these pictures there is a certain kind of power but it's still a false force like rhetoric they're sure to make the silly look but they are all barbaric and savage depictions after all in 1861 eight million people were said to have seen these images and even counting with some exaggeration and this must have been the most successful touring exhibition of contemporary art in history this answer enthusiastic was not simply a result of advertising, it came from popular beliefs and an opportunistic game played on them.
The Last Judgment seen, for example, shows contemporary people among those here on the left. Those who are being judged. The lineup of saves here includes well-behaved historical figures, a lot of them. British and among the Damned to the right at the bottom there is visibly a king and a pope there are other current details there like a train in the background that is falling off a cliff the message is that the current devices of false belief and materialism they are about being punished many radical preachers in laymen fervently believed in what has been called millenarianism that there is a pattern as it says in the book of Revelation that greed and corruption accumulate in cycles of a thousand years and that the kingdom of God on earth it would certainly come to an end, there is absolutely no evidence that Martin himself was expecting the apocalypse, but the expectations had trickled down to a large part of his public and Martin and his promoters were well aware of this and played with it 150 Years later, we're so used to apocalyptic vision served up with special effects like Roland Emmerich's in the film from four years ago that it's hard to imagine the thrill for Martin's audience of a huge, vivid picture of the world coming to an end before their eyes.
I would like to go back from the end of the world 27th century VII and Mesopotamia and ask how Martin came to this subject and his grandiose treatment of it, but first ask how common the theme of Belshazzar's feast offering is in art history. The answer is not very common and there is this one from 17 to 3017 sorry this one from 1635 by Rembrandt a painting that was in England at the time of Martin in the collection of the Earl of Derby and it is likely that Martin knew it either in the original or in an immense amount that his brother had made, but the idea is different, this is about the reaction of the king, who gets up and turns around in amazement, he has been sitting at the table feasting on the treasure of the temple, which he remembers imagines like the most elegant type of contemporary Dutch silver, he overturns the vessels with one arm and fights back. the vision with another is cropped and there is no prophet Daniel there to foretell his fate only the guilty potentate and the glowing letters spelling out his fate the other treatments Martin knew were by his contemporaries the American painters Benjamin West and Washington Alston's painting West is at the top.
If he was here three
lectures ago, he'll remember that West emigrated from Pennsylvania and was a court painter to George. The third and one of the most famous living artists. They were all at the bottom. He was a friend of Martin's. from Boston and trained at the Royal Academy with West West shows the bewildered scholars on the right with their scrolls, the surprised king and his courtiers and the venerable prophet whose sweeping gesture connects the words on the wall and the king the stage is confined and the fact that it is a banquet is simply signaled by the presence of silver in the background alston pretty much takes over West's composition by adding a queen and more spectators a more mysterious lighting scheme and nice touches like the far left the extinguished flame of the menorah like a candlestick behind the doomed king, the martin takes the elements of these neoclassical stagings, as if separating them, your eye has to travel around the image to capture them and work out the relationships for yourself most important is the conception of the setting for Rembrandt and West and Austin the event was almost intimate inside in the palace but focused on the mood of the lords Belle Chasse as an emblem of their downfall Martin places the actors in a public space in an extravagant space that expresses the very height of material ambition, we're just saying a few things about the image of Babylon, you've already seen that the fantasies of classical sown and gandy architecture fueled the imagination of Martin, but when it came to actually imagining Babylon, Martin didn't have much else to go on. earlier engravings much earlier, all based on descriptions by Herodotus and other ancient writers like this one on the bottom left designed by Martin de Haines Carrick in the 16th century and the other on the top right this kind of ambitious double page spread by jesuit scholar athanasius kircher both artists do much of the building here the monkey atem a ziggurat that inspired the biblical legend of the voyages of the Tower of Babel travelers to Mesopotamia were beginning to find the actual sites mentioned in the bible which was a great quest Throughout the 19th century and contemporary with Martin, adventurer Claudius Jay Rich had just published an account of his sojourn in Babylon and his attempt to identify the impressive mounds he saw on the Euphrates in order to identify them with Old Testament texts. .
Archaeologists get excited. by mounds, but as you can see there was no standing architecture that could inspire the image of Martin and then there are the crowds in Martin's painting and many other metso paints and tints, sheer numbers of the saved and the Damned of Pompeii Ins and Assyrians nameless victims of the deluge these crowds could be said to be crowd pleasers helped make Martin's name and build his audience and put him in sync with another fan of the popular phenomenon in England at the time I mean concerts with immense orchestras and choirs after mid-century performing in new halls purpose-built to accommodate many thousands of listeners, including the growing number of lower- and middle-class ticket buyers drawn to shows like the Handel's oratorios, often on Biblical themes rearranged for large forces.
This is the famous Crystal Palace, the greenhouse-like exhibition building that was so successful in 1851 that it moved to the suburbs a couple of years later and this is where a little later the annual Handel Festival might have an orchestra. with 500 musicians and acquiring several thousand voices as the The newspaper cliché said this was heaven on earth the same wealthy northern industrial cities like Liverpool whose citizens turned out by the thousands to see the latest paintings by John Martin as they headed to the city these citizens built new concert halls of an unprecedented size as a street.
George's Hall and Liverpool, a building worthy even of Martin's imagination. The climax of this development of John Martin's gigantism is the Royal Albert Hall, inaugurated in 1871 by Queen Victoria, widow of Prince Albert, a kind of indoor coliseum with seats for more than 5,000 people and this is where the inspiration lies. because Albert Hall came from, I'm pretty sure, and that's down at the bottom, Martin's incredible image of Satan enthroned in a hall with curved terraces and what looked like boxes, a graduation concert at the Royal Albert Hall, as close as you can get. probably to be in one of
johnmartin's photos specifically
johnmartin's hell returning to Babylon Martin sends the emphasis of Belshazzar's private drama as I said to a public one shows Babylon in all its vast expanse of the palace anyway and its vast dizzying expanse and heights we know it is about to be plundered and many in the terrified crowds in the picture and howling Belshazzar himself will be killed it is also a drama of punished pride and rewarded virtue as well as captive Jews including their prophet Daniel , they will be released and the The turbulent sky with the conjunction of the moon and the star adds a cosmic element to a drama that Martin portrays as religious and political.
The moral of the piece is what God announces here with bright lights and Daniel reveals that there is a divine justice that is about to be fulfilled. to topple a proud and sinful monarch, it has been suggested that John Martin might have been commenting on the contemporary kings of Hanover, George III and George IV, there is no direct evidence for this and neither Martin nor his reviewers ever put a word in print that I would draw a parallel, but I think the suggestion is there as a warning and I think at least part of the audience understood that George III had been king for nearly 60 years when he died in 1820, the year Martin painted Belshazzar's feast. , this is the amazing wonderful in the formal portrait that was in the Great Gulf often is an exhibition at the British Heart Center a couple of years ago in his later life George the Third after losing his American colonies had two bouts of madness and went blind you may have seen his life dramatized by Alan Bennett in the 1994 film with Nigel Hawthorne, he had resigned in 1811 and handed over his official duties to his dissolute son, the Prince of Wales, who became Prince Regent and he remained a notoriously adulterous wasteful playboy and was heavily criticized by If a zealous Scottish preacher, the Reverend Neil Douglas, was tried for sedition in 1817 for comparing George III to Nebuchadnezzar for his infidelity and corruption and comparing the Prince Regent to his son Belshazzar , the case was reported in print and although Douglas was acquitted. that trial must have had what we would call a chilling effect that made Martin and his reviewers wary of pointing out the obvious about his image, namely that the Prince Regent had been weighed in the balance and found wanting in Nebuchadnezzar. , as you will remember. they looted the Temple in Jerusalem and brought the holy temples back to Babylon along with their Israelite slaves here is Nebuchadnezzar in theMetropolitan Opera a couple of years ago under the Italian name Nabucco in Verdi's marvelous 1842 opera just after Nabucco sings I am king I am no longer god he begins to go mad for his sins nebuchadnezzar was sent terrible dreams according to the old testament and worse than that in popular versions of his life nebuchadnezzar went mad and lived like an animal and the desert I'm just showing you the amazing image of William Blake del Rey turned into a beast on all fours in this 1815 engraving here the great cartoonist Cruickshank a relentless critic of the royal family turned the Prince Regent into a terrifying little Nebuchadnezzar haunted by horrible dreams dreams of responsibility and debt and misrule, I think Martin setting up for the Court of Babylon his vast pavilions and colonnades would have strengthened an association with the Prince Regent having his own great ambition for public buildings and from 1899 the Prince Regent monopolized the great architect and planner John Nash for 20 years on a series of projects that gave London its Regency face, most of them are still there serving their purpose to be grand and functional they were building everywhere in the 1820s and the Prince Regent's appetite for architectural glory was there in the face of Londoners everywhere they looked year after year, a Case in point was when the Prince Regent moved into Buckingham Palace at enormous cost. replace it with the Carlton House Terrace spec development, a row of very expensive houses earmarked for very important buyers there it is on the left that comes seven years after Belshazzar's party and ended a couple of years after George's death has a heavy Doric colonnade below and a receding gallery above I would think for a long time looked like some sort of British Babylon ordered by an unrepentant spendthrift king who was still ignorant of the writing on the wall in George III's former colonies.
The painter Thomas Cole hoped to persuade Americans to commission historical paintings on the model of John Morton Cole Martin's new paintings and engravings of various trips to his native England it was Martin's example more than anything else that inspired the five-part allegory de Cole on the rise and fall of the empire here the destruction of an imaginary ancient capital Cole admired both the didactic purposes of Martin's art and his grandiose vision the doomed glories of long-dead civilizations whatever topical messages he might have conveyed in the 1820s on the government of Miss and the wages of sin Martin's image has survived to this day, so what are we to do with it?
I am not going to suggest that it has a particular moral for our time that is not in the story of the Book of Daniel, but in Martin's vision of Babylon has been a long life in the time of my grandparents and my parents and even in my own. . I will close this talk with some examples. My grandfather could have gone to Babylon in Oakland Gardens. A summer amusement park in Roxbury. Boston part. Roxbury recalls that it is where John Trumbull saw or attempted the Battle of Bunker Hill in the 1880s, the owners had built a reconstruction of Babylon based on John Martins engravings seating 10,000 people to see what the poster proclaims them to be. battles, parades, songs and dances, elephants, camels, etc. hosted by the firm of Barnum and Bailey and they also had a Pompeii on site but it wasn't enough to turn a profit for over 12 seasons and then it disappeared and disappeared without a trace. my father when he was a child.
I saw DW Griffith's long-running epic Bigotry, whose Babylon had delivered the most stunning visuals ever seen on the screen. Griffith had had this set built on a dirt road in Hollywood that was later paved over and named Sunset Boulevard. Martin's colonnades were obviously a little tame for Griffith, so he added a few inventions of his own like columns with rearing elephants on top, and since Martin's crowds might have seemed a bit sparse, he hired four thousand extras from priests and slaves and temple maidens and court eunuchs and syrian troops and now i can drive east on sunset boulevard from my house to the place where the set once stood there's a mall on the site with dw's babylonian dick Griffith is a reconstruction of a reconstruction of a reconstruction and I can have a margarita where Belshazzar drank wine from the sacred vessels the next
lectureand the penultimate one will be on another famous scene by another famous painter said in another ancient place a Roman amphitheater in another imaginative reconstruction the narration will be implied, not spelled out the films will seem even closer as the role of history painting will have changed in the 19th century as it adapted to a new audience and shrunk, join us if you can
If you have any copyright issue, please Contact