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Frederic Leighton

Frederic Leighton

Frederic Leighton

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’s Art

Highlights of Frederic Leighton’s Art

  • 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

Frederic Leighton

A Tour of Artists


  • One of the most popular historical and mythological artists of the Victorian era?


“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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