Saturday, 12 May 2018

John Martin’s mezzotint (with drypoint), “Satan on His Throne”, 1824


John Martin (1789–1854)

“Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council” (aka “Satan on His Throne”), 1824, from the series of 24 illustration (in large and small plate formats) to John Milton's “Paradise Lost”, first published in 1824/5 by Septimus Prowett. This impression is from the 1850 edition published by Henry Washbourne.

Mezzotint with drypoint on wove paper trimmed on or within the platemark (as published) with margins around the image borderline and retaining the glue edge of the original binding (see lower edge)
Size: (sheet) 18.5 x 27.2 cm; (image borderline) 14.5 x 20.7 cm
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline at the lower edge right-of-centre: “J. Martin 182[4?]”
Lettered below the image borderline: (centre) "[Designed?] & Engraved by J.Martin Esqr / Book 2 line 1."

CW 30 (Campbell, Michael J. & J. Dustin Wees 1896, "Darkness Visible. The Prints of John Martin", Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts)
See also Michael J. Campbell et al 1992, “John Martin, Visionary Printmaker”, Campbell Fine Art/York City Art Gallery and “The Milton Paradise Lost Gallery”: http://www.wojm.org.uk/works/milton/milton.htm

Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression retaining the full margins (as published) and the binding edge with traces of the original glue still evident (see lower edge). The sheet is in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing). The sheet is backed with archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this visually arresting mezzotint by one of the most famous of the English romantic artists of the 19th century, for the total cost of AU$183 (currently US$138.10/EUR115.58/GBP101.98) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this superb impression, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


From what I understand, there were l0 editions in total of the large plates and the small plates, but of the smaller plates—of which this is one—there were six editions: Septimus Prowett’s edition in 12 parts between 1824 and 1827; Charles Tilt’s edition in 1838; and Henry Washbourne’s five editions (viz. 1849, 1850 [the edition of this impression], 1853 and 1859).

What I have difficulty in reconciling is how the delicate surface of a mezzotint could sustain so many editions without obvious signs of wear to the plate. After all, to my eyes this impression is beautifully crisp in the retention of the drypoint lines and velvety rich in terms of the large areas of mezzotint. Admittedly the plates were subjected to re-working as the British Museum advises: “even as early as the first re-edition of 1832-3” (see the BM curator’s comment for BM no. 1872,0810.744), but, even taking into account such intervention, I can see that whatever revisions may have been made, they were not radical and the integrity of the original artist’s hand remains intact. All that I can account for the freshness of the present impression is that (again quoting the curator of the BM [loc cit.]) “Martin worked directly onto the plate, using Thomas Lupton's new soft steel variety which was more durable than copper.” Whatever the reason, this impression is marvellously strong and beautiful in the sensitivity of its superb printing.







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