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This painting is a tribute to the eighteenth-century French painter, Antoine Watteau. Turner exhibited it in 1831, as the companion piece to Lucy, Countess of Carlisle… shown on the far left. It illustrates a colouristic principle of the theorist CA du Fresnoy, that white ‘may bear an object back, or bring it near’.

Watteau appears in the centre, surrounded by admirers and examples of his work which Turner knew, including Les Plaisirs du Bal (the large painting on the left, now in Dulwich College Gallery) and La Lorgneuse (‘The Flirt’, the smaller framed picture) owned by his friend, the poet Samuel Rogers.

September 2004