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As first observed by Ziff, this is a partial copy of Rubens’s (Peter Paul Rubens, 1577–1640) altarpiece, dated 1632, taken from the cathedral church of St Martin in Alost, Belgium, and returned after 1815. It reproduces only the central lower half of the composition, where plague sufferers writhe and plead before an arched bridge. Rubens was an artist who grew on Turner, as he did on the Romantic generation in general. Turner was primarily interested in his landscape effects, which he found impressive if inclined to be meretricious; see his notes on Rubens’s Landscape with a Tournament and Landscape with a Rainbow, folios 77 verso and 79 of this sketchbook (D04375, D04376).
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