John Martin, Belshazzar’s Feast, 1821

Belshazzar’s Feast is a biblical story from the book of Daniel about the Babylonian king Belshazzar who defiled the Judeo-Christian god by drinking out of some cups he looted from the Jerusalem holy site of Solomon’s Temple. Suddenly a hand appears and writes on the wall but no one can understand the writing, so the king sends for wise man/prophet Daniel, who interprets the writing to say that Belshazzar has been judged by god, will lose his kingdom, and that his days are numbered. This is where we get the expression ‘the writing is on the wall.’
Martin’s monumental painting shows a number of details seen here in these detail images:
2. the writing on the wall
3. the incomplete Tower of Babel
4. the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
5. scared banqueters running from the writing
6. Daniel prophesizing
7. Belshazzar (in golden robes) and his queen

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