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This composition is one of numerous idealised landscapes by Wilson based on the scenery he had observed in Italy in the 1750s. The arrangement of classical buildings in an imaginary setting was a device Wilson had learnt from Claude. Unlike the earlier master, however, Wilson tended to include ancient buildings that were no longer intact, thereby evoking a sense of time past. The domed ruin in the centre of this view is derived from a building just outside Rome, known in the eighteenth century as the Temple of Minerva Medica. The nude bathers in the foreground, with their overtones of Greek sculpture, are likewise a way of suggesting antiquity.

August 2004