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The blurred figures and animals in the foreground of this painting are borrowed and reworked from Titian’s late painting The Death of Actaeon. Having intruded on the sacred grove inhabited by Diana and her naked nymphs, the huntsman Actaeon is punished by being torn to pieces by his own hounds.

Turner sets the action in Italy’s Val d’Aosta, which he had visited in 1836. Unusually, on that occasion he travelled with a companion, the Scottish land-owner and artist HAJ Munro of Novar, who already possessed many of his pictures, and for whom this unfinished work was presumably intended.

February 2010