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John Martin

1789 – 1854

The Angels Guarding Paradise by Night by John Martin

The Angels Guarding Paradise by Night   1824/1826

  Original mezzotint with etching.
With the artist’s name in the plate.
Ref: Campbell-Wees 37
S 273 x 372 mm; P 257 x 355 mm;  I 195 x 280 mm
Original John Martin mezzotint with etching.

Excellent fully lettered proof impression, of the larger version of this subject, with rich blacks and bright white highlights. As issued for the first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost to include John Martin’s illustrations, as published in parts by Septimus Prowett, 1826 – this proof impression would not, however, have been available with the standard issue which included only normal lettered prints. Lettered proofs of this nature are far superior in quality to the lettered prints issued for the normal published book editions.

Mezzotint is the engraving technique most suited to night-time subjects. The effects of moonlight and the radiant brilliance of highlights, such as the angels in this image, are dramatic against the rich black of the mezzotint background. This contrast has been accentuated by darkening of the foreground rocks with much roulette work and underlying etching. In this striking engraving John Martin has employed the haunting qualities which can be produced through this engraving technique to their full. The aura of light emanating from the angels casts a mysterious illumination about the passage through the woodlands, whilst the distant landscape beyond is defined through silhouette against the light of the moon.

In this image, the distant figures of the angels Ithuriel and Zephon are seen amongst the trees, escorting Satan out of Paradise. In the foreground, the Archangel Gabriel has seen them approaching and calls to his squadron of angel guards:
Oh friends! I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;
And with them comes a third of regal port,
But faded splendour wan; who by his gait
And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell,
Not likely to part hence without contest;
Stand farm, for in his look defiance lours.

(Paradise Lost, Book IV)

Fully lettered proof impression, prior to any re-engraving and prior to the normal published book editions. On warm white laid paper, with margins beyond the platemark on all sides, as issued. Very fine condition, image surface excellent.