British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 464.000 mm
Width: 719.000 mm
Gift of the artist (1833)
Prints and Drawings
John Martin, The Fall of Babylon, a mezzotint with etching
England, AD 1831
'The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain...', Jeremiah (51:58)
John Martin (1789-1854) first interpreted the biblical scene of the destruction of Babylon in a huge painting exhibited at the British Institution in 1819.
He was keen to make prints after his paintings, as a 'means which would enable the public to see my productions, and give me a chance of being remunerated for my labours'. Martin did not see his prints just as commercial reproductions, but as works of art in their own right. He took personal responsibility for every stage of print production. He even inked his own plates, a job which was normally left to specialist printers.
The eccentric, English dilettante, William Beckford wrote:
'I have been three times running to the exhibition ... to admire 'The Capture of Babylon' by Martin. He adds the greatest distinction to contemporary art. Oh, what a sublime thing.'
M.J. Campbell, John Martin: visionary printma (City Art Gallery, York, 1992)
A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)
F. Carey (ed.), The Apocalypse and the shape o (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)