The title of this painting refers to Lord Byron’s long, epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (‘Childe’ is an archaic title for the son of a nobleman). Byron saw the remnants of Italy’s past as profoundly poignant: the country had, in the intervening years, lost both its liberty and integrity, but was still breathtakingly beautfiul. Turner showed his painting with these lines from Byron’s poem:
… and now, fair Italy!
Thou are the garden of the world…
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.’