Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

The Fall of Nineveh

This working proof was produced from John Martin’s large oil painting of the same name (1828) and etched by his own hand. The subject matter is based loosely on Byron’s play Sardanapalus, a Tragedy (1821). The scene takes place in the ancient Assyrian capital, where the Median armies have breached the city defenses. The streets are filled with mayhem. The helmeted figure in the bottom right-hand corner is King Sardanapalus. Unlike Delacroix’s famous Death of Sardanapalus (1826), where the king is hidden in his bed chamber, Sardanapalus’s madness here is displayed in the open air at the moment of high drama. The popularity of Martin’s image is attested to by the fact that he not only authorized a mezzotint after the composition (published July 1, 1830), but also produced an edition of forty-six unlettered etched proofs as well.

John Martin
English, 1789–1854
The Fall of Nineveh
Etching with some rocker work on paper
Image: 21 1/16 x 31 11/16 in. (53.5 x 80.5 cm); sheet: 21 71/16 x 31 11/16 in/ (54.5 x 80.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 70.68