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Here Turner has used Baiae, in the Bay of Naples, as the backdrop for the myth of Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl. The latter asked the Roman god to grant her life for as many years as the grains of sand she could hold in her hand. However, she omitted to ask for eternal youth and wasted away until only her voice remained. The poignant theme of her story is reflected in Turner’s landscape. The passage of time has wrought changes to the Roman architecture of the resort, but the golden beauty of the landscape remains undiminished.

February 2010