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Frederic Leighton – A Virtual Tour

Frederic Leighton

Frederic Leighton – A Virtual Tour

Sir Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896) was an English painter and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical, and classical subject matter.

He was successful and famous during his lifetime and was the bearer of the shortest-lived peerage in history,  1st Baron Leighton.

After only one day, his hereditary peerage became extinct upon his death. Leighton remained a bachelor with no legitimate children.

Leighton’s house in Holland Park, London, has been turned into a museum, the Leighton House Museum.

It has many of his drawings and paintings, as well as some of his former art collection, which included works by Old Masters and his contemporaries.

A Virtual Tour of Frederic Leighton

Highlights Tour of Frederic Leighton

Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence

The painting “Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence” as created by Frederic Leighton is massive, measuring more than two meters tall and more than five meters wide.

The painting shows a scene from the 13th-century procession of an altarpiece through the streets of Florence. The detailed description was provided by a 16th-century historian Giorgio Vasari’s.

The Madonna is being carried from the studio of the artist Cimabue to the church of Santa Maria Novella. Cimabue himself is depicted immediately in front of the Madonna wearing a laurel wreath.

He is followed by a group including several leading Florentine artistic figures of the day and on horseback at the right edge of the image, the King of Naples, Charles of Anjou. Museum: National Gallery, London

Cymon and Iphigenia

“Cymon and Iphigenia” was painted by Lord Frederic Leighton in 1884. The subject of this painting is a story from The Decameron, a collection of novellas by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375).

This story is about a strong and handsome son of a nobleman who was also a “mere idiot or fool.” He was known as “Cymon,” which means “the brute.”

One day while walking the woods, he discovered a young woman fast asleep in a meadow under a tree, and her beauty awakened his soul.

The parable of beauty soothing the savage beast inverts the myth of Sleeping Beauty in which a man awakens a young woman to sexuality and adulthood; in this case, the woman’s beauty awakens in the male figure, Cymon. Museum: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Perseus and Andromeda

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton dramatically portrays the Greek mythological story of Andromeda.

In contrast to the classic Greek origins of the tale, Leighton used a Gothic style for the artwork. Perseus is depicted flying above on his winged horse Pegasus.

He shoots an arrow that hits the sea monster, who turns to attack the hero. Andromeda’s white body is contrasted against the dark masses of the monster’s wing, and depicted as pure innocence.

A halo of light surrounds Pegasus and Perseus. In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of the King and Queen of Ethiopia.

Her mother, the beautiful, but vain queen boasted that Andromeda, her daughter was more beautiful than all the sea nymphs.

The sea nymphs were the daughters of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and when the nymphs heard of her claims, they protested to their father.

Poseidon, to punish the Queen for her hubris, called up a sea monster to wreak havoc on Ethiopia, and this monster placed the kingdom at risk.

In response, the Queen, together with the King, decided to sacrifice their daughter, Princess Andromeda, to the beast. Museum: Walker Art Gallery

Icarus and Daedalus” by Frederic Leighton

“Icarus and Daedalus” by Frederic Leighton depicts Icarus being prepared for flight by his father, Daedalus.

Icarus is almost nude, save for some billowing drapery is standing on a marble ledge. Icarus is reaching up to grasp the handle to the wings fastened on his back.

However, he seems to be ignoring his father’s warning. Leighton has captured the moments before Icarus’s hubris leads to his downfall.

This overconfidence is symbolized by his single-minded gaze towards the horizon and his grasping at air rather than his hand-strap. Museum: Private collection

Perseus On Pegasus Hastening To the Rescue of Andromeda

“Perseus On Pegasus Hastening To the Rescue of Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton shows the mythical hero riding the winged horse Pegasus. Perseus is hastening to the rescue of Andromeda, who is in peril from a terrible sea-monster. 

Perseus is carrying the head of the slain Medusa, with hair of snakes, whose gaze even after death would turn the beholder to stone.

In Greek mythology, Perseus is the legendary founder of Mycenae. He was the great Greek hero and slayer of monsters before the days of Heracles.

Athena helped Perseus, and he found Medusain a cave. By viewing Medusa’s reflection in his polished shield, he safely cut off her head. Museum: New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, England


“Desdemona” by Frederic Leighton depicts the Venetian beauty from William Shakespeare’s play Othello which was written in 1601 – 1604.

Desdemona’s story starts when she enrages her father, a Venetian senator, when she elopes with Othello. Othello is a brave soldier of Moorish background in the service of the Venetian Republic, but several years her senior.

When Othello is deployed to Cyprus in the service of the Republic of Venice, Desdemona accompanies him. His ensign then manipulates her husband into believing she is an adulteress.

Othello has its source in a 1565 Italian tale, which may have been based on an actual incident occurring in Venice about 1508.

The only named character in the original story is “Disdemona.” The name derives from Greek, which means “ill-fated, unfortunate.” Museum: Leighton House Museum, London.

Flaming June

“Flaming June” by Frederic Leighton portrays a classical Greek figure of a sleeping maiden or nymph influenced by Greek sculpture. The toxic oleander branch in the top right symbolizes the link between sleep and death.

The expressiveness of the elaborate, swirling drapery was influenced by Leighton’s study of the drapery on the statues from the Pedimental Sculptures of the Parthenon.

When the Greek Marbles were first exhibited in London, they had a significant impact on many British artists of the time. Leighton’s love for the classical world is artfully presented in this masterpiece.

Flaming June was first begun as a motif for one of Leighton’s other paintings. However, he became so inspired by the image that he decided to treat it as a painting in its own right.

The position of the sleeping woman’s body was Leighton ‘s main challenge in this composition. He made several preliminary sketches to determine how she should lie and to make the angles of the arms look natural.

Leighton’s preliminary studies show that the composition went through at least four evolutionary sketches. Out of these studies, four are nude, and one is draped.

Leighton needed first to draw the nude pose to achieve the natural clothed pose. Museum:  Museo de Arte de Ponce.

The Daphnephoria

“The Daphnephoria” by Frederic Leighton depicts an ancient Greek religious festival held every ninth year at Thebes in Boeotia, Greece in honor of Apollo.

During the festival procession, the people held laurel branches and sung to Apollo. At the head of the procession walked a youth who acted as the chosen priest of Apollo. He was given the special title of the “Daphnephoros.”

Leighton’s depiction features a procession of young people with a richly dressed “Daphnephoros,” wearing a golden crown.

The Daphnephoros leads the procession to the temple of Apollo, where he will dedicate to Apollo two bronze tripods. The tripods are carried on the shoulders of the youth at the far left of the painting.

The youth who was selected as the “Daphnephoros,” which in Greek meant the “laurel bearer,” had to come from a prominent family, had to be of noble appearance, and his parents had to be healthy. 

In the procession, immediately in front of the “Daphnephoros” walked one of his relatives, carrying an olive tree pole hung with laurels and flowers and having at the top a bronze ball from which hung several smaller balls. 

Another smaller ball was placed in the middle of the pole, which was then twined round with colored ribbons. The balls symbolized the sun, stars, and moon, while the ribbons symbolized the days of the year. Museum: Lady Lever Art Gallery

Frederic Leighton

Frederic Lord Leighton: A collection of paintings

Leighton’s Paintings 

A Tour of Artists

Frederic Leighton and his ‘Private Palace of Art’

Frederic Leighton Paintings


“True genius knows no hurry,
that patience is of its essence,
and thoroughness its constant mark.”
– Sir Frederic Leighton


Photo Credit:1)Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton [Public domain]

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