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This is the only large-scale nude that Gainsborough ever painted. It remained unfinished and was never shown in public in his lifetime. The title probably refers to the nymph Musidora who represented ‘Summer’ in a popular eighteenth-century poem, The Seasons, by James Thomson. But this title was added later. Gainsborough probably saw this woman more generally as an anonymous classical nymph.The figure’s pose is based on a classical marble sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

May 2007