Etty, who studied under Sir Thomas Lawrence, might be described as a nympholept, perhaps in reaction to his strict Methodist upbringing. Etty took delight in the lustre, colour and fleshiness of the body, and painted it with an enthusiasm bordering on mania. He became something of a joke and even a nuisance at the Royal Academy life classes, which he persisted in attending long after he had graduated. His paintings of nudes of the 1840s became greatly prized, and his 1846 RA exhibit, Musidora: The Bather, ‘At the Doubtful Breeze Alarmed’ (Tate, London), to which this painting is related, has become one of his most famous. His sojourn in Venice led him to value colour over draughtsmanship, ‘disegno’ over ‘colore’. The artist JE Hodgson perceptively remarked: ‘He proposed one thing to himself, to paint the naked body, and yet his views did not extend to the fullness of its beauty, to the grace of its curvature and the perfection of its structure; they were confined to the representation of the colour and lustre of its skin’ (Magazine of Art, 1889).