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This canvas was never exhibited and is probably unfinished, but remains one of Turner's most powerful statements on the Romantic theme of maritime disaster. Its pyramidal composition leaves little doubt that Turner had seen Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (now in the Louvre, Paris) described by one critic as ‘this tremendous picture of human sufferings’, when it was exhibited in London in 1822. Turner's own subject is the wreck of the Amphitrite off Boulogne in 1833. The ship's captain abandoned his cargo of female convicts, claiming that he was only authorised to land them in New South Wales.

March 2010