Between 1946 and 1952 Ayrton made several visits to Italy, where he became interested in the Renaissance principles of perspective. 'The Captive Seven' is one of Ayrton's major works and largest paintings. The figures were inspired by the street life of Trastevere, a poor district of Rome, and are arranged in a geometrically structured composition. Ayrton executed the work as a dark allegory of the seven deadly sins - pride, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony and lust. Alternatively the seven figures could be seen as being held captive by their poverty. In the paintings of this period Ayrton sought to 'offset unquiet implications by a completely tranquil design'.