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Thomas Gray’s poem The Bard, published in 1757, fascinated many of the Romantic generation. Etty’s picture illustrates the linesIn gallant trim, the gilded vessel goes,Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm,Unmindful of the sweeping whirlwind’s sway.Etty was renowned for his sensual depiction of the nude. He shows youth snatching at the ‘bubbles of pleasure’ until woken from its indulgence by ‘the whirlwind of distress’. He described the work as an ‘allegory of human life’.

May 2007