This is one of a series which Turner made to illustrate the lectures he delivered as Professor of at the Royal Academy, a post held between 1807 and 1828. The influence of Piranesi's is at its most pronounced here. The Italian 's fantastical images of the imposing architecture of ancient Rome became very popular in Britain during the second half of the eighteenth century, and Turner had been engaged to copy some examples during the mid-1790s. In a particularly remarkable series,'I Carceri' (The Prisons), Piranesi grimly depicted the interiors of imaginary prisons. Here Turner adapted this to demonstrate the behaviour of shadows to his audience.
Gallery label, September 2004