John Martin’s Last Judgement Triptych: The Apocalyptic Sublime in the Age of Spectacle
To the left, under the angels sounding the trumpets that herald the end of the world, are the redeemed, made up of ‘The high-caste Indian clasps the low-caste African, the Chinese, the European, the American, holy martyrs, the high and low – the greatest and the meanest – of every age, country and station’, but featuring thirty-four named individuals from history including, as an early critic remarked, a disproportionate number of ‘painters and poets’.3 Identifiable from familiar historical portraits among this crowd are, among others, the English king Alfred the Great, the scientists Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, the philosopher John Locke, the first President of the United States George Washington, the writers William Shakespeare and John Milton, and the artists Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Behind them are the walls of the ‘Holy City, Jerusalem’.
And the Heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places;
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and every bondsman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains.
And said to the mountains of rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?4
And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a voice out of Heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.
And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.5
The age of spectacle
The apocalyptic sublime – belief and the market
How to cite
Martin Myrone, ‘John Martin’s Last Judgement Triptych: The Apocalyptic Sublime in the Age of Spectacle’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www