1/27/11

John Martin, Paradise Lost - The Conflict Between Satan and Death (Book 2)


National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Date: 1825
Technique: Mezzotint with engraving on chine collé, mounted on cream wove paper, 19.4 x 26.7 cm

In Milton's account, Sin seeks to prevent the conflict between Satan and a formless Death (Book II line 666); Milton describes Death as
...the other shape. / If shape it might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint or limb;
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,
For each seemed either: black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell.

Martin did not however follow Milton's description of Sin, doubtless considering it too grotesque for public taste and distracting to his design: by Milton's account Sin "seemed woman to the waist, and fair; / But ended foul in many a scaly fold../ ...a serpent armed / With mortal sting."

Source 1
Source 2

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