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This unfinished canvas is one of a group of works painted by Turner in Rome in 1828. Some of these were exhibited in the city, but this one was evidently not ready for display and remained uncompleted when Turner returned to London. Turner was probably inspired by a marble figure of Pauline Borghese in the Villa Borghese in Rome, carved by the neo-classical Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. Canova secured Turner's election to the Roman Academy of St Luke and pronounced him a 'great genius', but Turner probably felt uneasy painting a nude figure on such a heroic scale.

August 2004