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“Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence” by Frederic Leighton

Frederic Leighton - Cimabue's Madonna Carried in Procession

“Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence” by Frederic Leighton

“Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence” by Frederic Leighton, is a massive painting measuring more than two metres tall and more than five metres wide. The painting shows a scene from the 16th-century historian Giorgio Vasari’s description of the 13th-century procession of an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child through the streets of Florence.

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.

The Madonna depicted, seen at a very narrow-angle in the centre of the painting, is actually not by Cimabue. This error is the result of the misattributions of this altarpiece which lasted into Leighton’s time, a mistake which was not corrected until 1889.

The painting was successfully received, and Queen Victoria purchased it on the first day of the exhibition. The National Gallery notes Victoria’s diary entry about this painting:

“There was a very big picture by a man called Leighton. It is a beautiful painting, quite reminding one of a Paul Veronese, so bright and full of light. Albert was enchanted with it—so much so that he made me buy it.”

Sir Frederic Leighton was successful during his lifetime with many works depicted historical, biblical, and classical subject. Leighton 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 including works by Old Masters and his contemporaries.

Reflections

  • What did Prince Albert like about this painting that Queen Victoria purchased it on the first day of the exhibition?
  • What are the stories told about the many people in this painting?
  • This artist travelled to Florence and Venice to gather inspiration for this painting. Does the authentic detail shin through this painting?

Exploring Frederic Leighton

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

  • Title:             Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence
  • Artist:            Frederic Leighton
  • Created:        853-55.
  • Period:          Academic art
  • Media:          Oil paint on Canvas
  • Dimensions: 231.8 × 520.7 cm (91.3 × 205 in)
  • Museum:      National Gallery, London

Frederic Leighton

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“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
– Socrates

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