Display caption

This unfinished study shows a group of figures playing or languidly listening to music in an unidentified setting. It was for many years associated with the interiors of Petworth, but has more recently been linked with the Octagon Room at East Cowes Castle; Turner's hostess at Cowes was Mrs John Nash, who was an accomplished pianist. There is, however, a third possibility based on the fact that the central figure is based on a pencil sketch recorded during Turner's stay in Paris in 1832. That pencil sketch may be a hasty portrait of his acquaintance the famous scientist Mary Somerville, who was also a talented musician. If the setting is indeed French, the sparkle and light of the fabrics may perhaps be another attempt to evoke the shimmer of Watteau.

September 2004