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Deacon is a rare artist. This picture is one of only three works, all similar in style and subject, which can be attributed to him. He was the son of the Collector of the Coal Duty for the Port of London, who defrauded the Revenue. James was believed to have been involved in this; though his guilt was never proved, this affair undoubtedly affected his career as an artist. He died from gaol fever caught after he visited the Old Bailey to watch a trial. This imaginary landscape owes a clear debt to the earlier classical landscapes painted by Nicolas Poussin and Gaspard Dughet. These were particularly popular among connoisseurs and artists of the day.

September 2004