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“In Time of Peril” by Edmund Blair Leighton

Edmund Blair Leighton - In Time of Peril

“In Time of Peril” by Edmund Blair Leighton

“In Time of Peril” by Edmund Blair Leighton depicts two young princes, one still a baby wrapped in his mother’s elaborate royal clothing, being spirited away from danger to a protective monastery. This painting was created and exhibited during Queen Victoria’s sixtieth anniversary of reign and represented the anxieties stirred by an ageing monarch. As the adults in the boat await anxiously for permission to enter the sanctuary, the young prince looks over his shoulder and the potential lurking danger.

In a letter, the artists describe the scene as:

“laid at the water gate of a monastery in the fourteenth century; the outcome of reading of the shelter afforded by such places to the women, children and treasure of those who were hard driven, and in danger.”

“In Time of Peril” remains a favourite printing due to its technical qualities and the imaginative story it tells evoking western historical royalist fantasy. The artist, Edmund Blair Leighton was a painter of historical genre scenes, specialising in Regency and medieval subjects.

Edmund Leighton

Edmund Blair Leighton (1852 – 1922) was an English painter of historical genre scenes, specialising in Regency and medieval subjects. Leighton produced highly finished, beautiful pictures, displaying romanticised scenes with a popular appeal.

Events at the time of this Painting

In 1897, when this painting was painted, Queen Victoria was 78 years old and had already written instructions for her funeral, she wanted a military funeral. After she died in 1901, her son Edward VII, her the grandson German Kaiser and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her body into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress with her wedding veil. An array of mementoes commemorating her extended family, friends and servants were laid in the coffin with her, at her request. One of Albert’s dressing gowns was placed by her side, with a plaster cast of his hand, while a lock of John Brown’s hair, along with a picture of him, was placed in her left hand concealed from the view of the family by a carefully positioned bunch of flowers. Items of jewellery placed on Victoria included the wedding ring of John Brown’s mother, given to her by Brown in 1883. Her funeral was held in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park.

Wilhelm II who help lift the queen’s body into her coffin was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, who was reigning during the start of World War I until shortly before Germany’s defeat in the First World War. He was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria and was related to the many monarchs and princes of Europe, with whom his government went to war during World War I.

Timeline of Events surrounding this Painting

  • 1819 – Princess Victoria is born
  • 1837 – Victoria becomes queen
  • 1840 – Victoria marries Prince Albert
  • 1852 – Edmund Blair Leighton is born
  • 1859 – Wilhelm II, German Emperor and eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria is born
  • 1861 – Albert dies
  • 1860s – Victoria relied increasingly on John Brown and rumours of a romantic connection and even a secret marriage appeared in print.
  • 1877 – Victoria becomes Empress of India
  • 1878 – Thomas Edison filed his first patent application for the Incandescent Light Bulb
  • 1887 – Victoria engaged two Indian Muslims as waiters, one of whom she promoted to teach her Urdu and to act as a clerk
  • 1897 – The painting of “In Time of Peril” by Edmund Blair Leighton
  • 1901 – Victoria’s reign comes to a close with the death of Queen Victoria
  • 1914 – World War I starts
  • 1918 – World War I ends
  • 1922 – Death of Edmund Blair Leighton

Explore History Paintings

Reflections

  • An imagined story evoking historical royalist fantasy. What are our modern fantasies?
  • Anxieties stirred by an ageing monarch. What are our fears?
  • Was this painting prophetic about the “Time of Peril” that befell the world shortly afterwards?

In Time of Peril

  • Title:            In Time of Peril
  • Artist:          Edmund Blair Leighton
  • Medium:     Oil on canvas
  • Date:           1897
  • Dimensions: Height: 1,245 mm (49.02 in). Width: 1,689 mm (66.5 in).
  • Museum:     Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Edmund Blair Leighton

  • Name:        Edmund Blair Leighton
  • Born:          1852 – London
  • Died:          1922 – London
  • Nationality: English
  • Key Works:
    • The Dying Copernicus (1880)
    • Lady Godiva (1892)
    • Two Strings (1893)

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“As man disappears from sight, the land remains.”
– Maori Proverb

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Photo Credit: Edmund Leighton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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