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This was once thought to be a view of Italy, perhaps the garden of a Roman villa. It is now known to be based on a small jotting in a sketchbook Turner used while travelling through northern France.

In place of the towers of Rouen cathedral, Turner has introduced a patch of watery sunlight that contrasts with the foreground shadows. The reclining figures are taken directly from the sketchbook drawing. However, they also recall the pastoral scenes of Antoine Watteau, an eighteenth-century artist whose work particularly interested Turner in the 1820s and 1830s.

February 2010