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Thornhill was the most important native-born baroque decorative painter of the early eighteenth century, competing in a field which had been dominated previously by foreign artists trained in the Continental tradition. A large number of sketches and preliminary studies for his schemes survive, such as this one. It is not known for which location it was intended, although in the past it has been linked to Thornhill's designs for Canons, Middlesex, the imposing new mansion built by James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. It shows a grand staircase richly painted with mythological scenes - the Birth of Venus in the centre, Neptune in his chariot to the left and an assembly of the gods on the ceiling above.

August 2004