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Turner worked on two paintings with Egyptian subjects in the years around 1800: The Fifth Plague of Egypt, exhibited in 1800 (BJ 13; Indianapolis Museum of Art),1 which actually depicts the Seventh Plague; and The Tenth Plague of Egypt, exhibited in 1802 (Tate N00470).2 Further studies of Egyptian artefacts and costumes are on folios 22 recto, 72 recto and verso, 73 recto, and 74 recto and verso (D03854, D03906–D03910). There are similar studies in the contemporary Studies for Pictures sketchbook (Tate D04074, D04076; Turner Bequest LXIX 65a, 66a). Turner does not in fact seem to have cited any of these specific details in those pictures.
Egyptian objects were still rare in England at the end of the eighteenth century; the beginning of Egyptian archaeology was stimulated by Napoleon’s abortive venture to the country in 1799. Turner most probably derived his images from books, such as Bernard de Montfaucon’s famous L’Antiquité expliquée et représententée en figures (15 volumes,1719–24), published in English from 1721.