Friday, May 7, 2010

James Hampton Throne Room


Did James Hampton have a "Revelation"? Or was he just a gifted artist?

Can we believe his report? If not, what would drive someone to fervently work day after day to build what was shown to him? At any rate he had "Vision".

I wanted to spotlight this particular brother, because I feel he has accomplished something no one in our time has...........



"The Revelation of Saint John the Devine." He intended, when he was done, to open a storefront ministry with the 180-component liturgical assembly for its centerpiece. Begun about 1950, the toil went on fourteen years in the hours after midnight

The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations'

James Hampton (April 8, 1909–November 4, 1964) was an African-American janitor who secretly built a large assemblage of religious art from scavenged materials.[1]

James Hampton was born in Elloree, South Carolina in 1909. His father was a gospel singer and a traveling Baptist preacher. In 1928, Hampton left for Washington, D.C. to join his elder brother Lee. They shared an apartment. James Hampton worked as a short-order cook until 1942 when he was drafted into United States Army Air Forces. He served as a carpenter with the noncombatant 385th Aviation Squadron around the Pacific theatre. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned to Washington, D.C.

In 1946, Hampton became a night janitor with the General Services Administration. In 1950 he rented a garage in northwest Washington.

Hampton died of stomach cancer on November 4, 1964 at the Veteran's Hospital in Washington, D.C. He never married.

Part of the passage in the reference to Corinthians in Hampton's photo speaks of "a man in Christ caught up to the third heaven whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth." - Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Art Museum

A month later Meyer Wertlieb, owner of the garage, came to find out why the rent had not been paid. He knew that Hampton had been building something in the garage. When he opened the door, he found a room filled with many symmetrical, glittering objects surrounding a central throne.

Born the son of an itinerant, self-ordained minister and gospel singer in 1909 at Elloree, South Carolina, Hampton migrated when he was nineteen to the District of Columbia. There he had visions, which he recorded. The earliest note of one that survives reads: "This is true that the great Moses the giver of the 10th commandment appeared in Washington DC, April 11, 1931."

He believed he had the best companionship for which a man could ask. God, Hampton said, instructed him each night as work on The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly advanced toward the dawn.

Hampton's vision of the heaven of the sky, the heaven of the planets, and the heaven of the Almighty, and the gathering of the nations foretold for when Christ returned at the end of days. Then, according to the New Testament, the deity, attended by angels, is to appear on a throne to reign over the New Jerusalem.

For 14 years, Hampton had been building a throne out of various old materials like aluminum and gold foil, old furniture, various pieces of cardboard, old light bulbs, shards of mirror and old desk blotters. He had pinned it together with tacks, glue, pins and tape.

It is unknown whether Hampton considered himself an artist. Hampton's work would be an example of folk or native art — art made by people who are self-taught, who have not studied art techniques, art history, or art theory.


The "No. 1" Crown Hampton fashioned for The Throne of the Third Heaven shrine bears a citation from Revelations 7:3, in which one angel tells four others: "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." - Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Art Museum

The text The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly was written on the objects in Hampton's handwriting. He had emblazoned the words Fear Not above the central throne. The garage contained a total of 177 objects. Many of them were inscribed with words out of the biblical Book of Revelation. The objects on the right side of the central throne seem to refer to the New Testament and those on the left side to the Old Testament.

Hampton built his masterwork of metallic foils, paper, plastic, strips of metal cut from coffee cans, jelly jars, flower vases, lightbulbs, wood furniture, cardboard, conduit, glue, tape, tacks, and pins. The foil-wrapped bulbs are a poetic reference to Jesus as the light of the world. When dust settled on the objects, Hampton recovered them instead of cleaning.


The Stand is from the first rank of the three-tiered assembly, its foil-wrapped electric bulbs an apparent poetic reference to the deity as the light of the world. -Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Art Museum


Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Art Museum
He said of his project, "That is my life. I'll finish before I die." There were, however, leftover pieces and spare parts when he passed away, never having opened his church, in 1964. No one knew of Hampton's creation save his landlord, who took possession of it all in lieu of back rent. He also got a collection of encoded writings, kept in ring binders or on clipboards, penned by Hampton in a secret alphabet, that have yet to be deciphered. Among them is The Book of the 7 Dispensations by St. James, each page of which ends with the word "Revelation." Colonial

Hampton had also kept a 112-page notebook, titled St James: The Book of the 7 Dispensation, written in his personal code. He referred to himself as St. James and ended each page with the word "Revelation". He had written more text on various pieces of paper and cardboard. Some of them refer to religious visions. Hampton's personal code remains unsolved.

In Hampton's writing he kept the title "Director, Special Projects for the State of Eternity"

The story became public in the December 15, 1964 issue of the Washington Post. Hampton had kept his project secret; his relatives first heard about it when his sister came to claim his body.


Wertlieb donated it to the National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) in 1970. All he asked was that his name be listed as the donor. He was promised this by the representatives of the Smithsonian but it never occurred prior to or after it moved to the new Museum. His family has been working on this since his death in 2000.

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