This small study is related to the lower half of John Martin's large oil in the Tate, The Last Judgement (Tate Gallery T01927), which illustrates the central event of the Book of Revelation. The study incorporates the most eye-catching detail in the picture, and for nineteenth century viewers the most chilling one, in which a railway train is shown plunging into the bottomless pit. A small flap of paper pasted along the bottom right edge onto the main sheet can be lifted to reveal an alternative grouping of figures for the bottom right hand corner of the oil. A small oil sketch relating to The Last Judgement is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut.

The main paper support of the sketch was recycled by Martin from one of his many unrealised engineering schemes for improved water and sewage plants for London. The verso shows part of a plan and specifications for a 300 x 150 foot receptacle or pit, lined with glazed bricks, for dealing with sewage overflow.

Further reading:
William Feaver, The Art of John Martin, Oxford 1975, pp.188-204

Terry Riggs
November 1997