The Celestial City and River of Bliss

JOHN MARTIN (1789-1854) Biography
SYMBOLISM (founded 1886) Biography

The Celestial City and River of Bliss (United Kingdom, 1841)

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Oil on canvas
Signed (lower right) and dated 1841


123.20cm high
194.30cm wide
(48.50 inches high)
(76.50 inches wide)
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Benjamin Hick of Bolton, purchased from John Martin; his sale, Manchester, February 1843 to:
George Whiteley
Captain Sir Maurice Huntington-Whitely
Sir H. B. Huntingdon-Whitely to 1994
Private collection in the United States


Mary L Pendered, John Martin, Painter, 1923, pages 145, 158 and 280
Thomas Balston, John Martin 1789-1854, His Life and Works, Duckworth, London 1947, pages 206 & 275
Richard James, Two Paintings by John Martin, Burlington Magazine, volume XCIV number 593 August 1952, pages 234-237 and plate 23
William Feaver, John Martin,, London 1975, pages 165-167, 169, 173, 198, 231 number 38, 232 number 46 and plate 125

Exhibition History

London, Royal Academy, 1841, number 428
Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1952 (on loan)
London, Victoria and Albert, Berlioz and the Romantic Imagination, 1969, number 219 reproduced in catalogue
London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, John Martin, Loan Exhibition, 1975

Description / Expertise

The first owner, who had purchased the painting directly from the artist, was a famous Victorian engineer who founded the company of Hicks Hargreaves, makers of Steam Engines.

The Celestial City was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1841 with the following lines from Milton's Paradise Lost Book 3, line 374:

Thee, Author of all being,

Fountain of Light, thyself invisible.

The same subject, under the title Heaven- The Rivers of Bliss, was engraved in Martin's Paradise Lost of Milton, 1825-7, but the design of the latter is closer in composition to his oil painting The Plains of Heaven of 1853. John Martin designed a frame with a dove motif for the painting, but it was never made.