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This is a 'lay-in' (or ground work) for a small picture of a historical landscape, left unfinished by Turner. He experimented with a brighter palette as he set out the foundations of the composition, working over a pale ground. The design may echo Richard Wilson's famous picture The Destruction of Niobe's Children; the dark blur at upper left approximates to Wilson's cloud bearing Apollo and Diana. In the early 1790s Wilson's picture belonged to the Keeper of the Royal Academy, Joseph Wilton. It was also reproduced in a print by William Woollett, which Turner greatly admired.

August 2004