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Following his infatuation for his young model Rosie Pettigrew, Steer unexpectedly turned to painting two erotic subjects from the Old Masters, a 'Rape of the Sabines' and this 'Toilet of Venus', which is his largest canvas. He moved on from the bright, out-of-doors colouring of his Impressionist series to a manner based on the monochrome oil sketches of the French eighteenth-century painter Fragonard. In this painting he also made a specific homage to Gainsborough's 'Musidora' (displayed in room 3). There was in the years around 1900 a renewal of interest in the furniture and art of the French Rococo. Steer did not exhibit the picture until 1924.

September 2004