The water nymph Undine was born without
a soul. She gains one by marrying a human, but in return has to take on the burdens
of the world. Turner shows her offering
a wedding ring to a fisherman. The story
was written by the German writer Friedrich De La Motte Foucque, though Turner probably knew it from versions on the London stage.
This picture, with its square format and sombre colouring, complements Turner's The Angel standing in the Sun, a vision of the Last Judgement (illustrated left; the painting
is on show in room C1). Both paintings represent spiritual power or transformation through a burst of brilliant light.