‘Moses Destroying Pharaoh’. Mezzotint by John Martin. 10 x 15 inches. The scene shows the moment when the Red Sea is closing around Pharaoh and his army. Martin highlights the drama by placing Moses in the near centre, with a tumultuous sky and sea occupying the main part of the design. Melodramatic, full of movement, visceral and altogether far too theatrical for modern tastes, it epitomizes the artist’s focus on high drama. It is easy to see how it influenced Cecil B. de Mille in his film of 1923, The Ten Commandants; even more like Martin, this time in lurid Technicolor to match the artist’s palette, is the same director’s sound version (1956).

Image capture and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Illustrations of the Bible. With mezzotints by John Martin. London: Tilt, 1839

Created 10 October 2021