Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A., R.W.S
- Study for Flaming June
- pencil and white chalk
- 22 by 20cm., 8¾ by 8in.
Leonée & Richard Ormond, 1975, p.141
Flaming June is among the most famous masterpieces of the nineteenth century and has become known as ‘The Mona Lisa of the Southern Hemisphere’. Painted c.1895 it is an almost abstract evocation of languid sensuality in the form of a sleeping woman dressed in an orange gown on a marble exedra beside the ocean. According to Leighton, the pose had presented itself to him; ‘The design was not a deliberate one, but was suggested by a chance attitude of a weary model who had a peculiarly supple figure.’ (E. Staley, p.159) Whilst there may be some truth to this, parallels have also been drawn between Burne-Jones' sleeping women in the famous Briar Rose paintings painted between 1873 and 1890 (Buscot Park, Oxfordshire), the work of Albert Moore such as Dreamers (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) and George Frederick Watts’ Hope (various versions, one at the Watts Gallery, Compton). Leighton first used this pose for the design of a carved relief in Summer Slumber of 1894 (private collection).
Although Flaming June is now internationally famous, this has not always been the case and like the present drawing, the oil painting was lost from sight for many years. The painting had been enthusiastically received when it was first exhibited and it was loaned for some years to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. However the painting was returned to its owner in 1930, it was sold shortly afterwards and lost for more than thirty years. It reappeared in 1963 on a market trader’s stall in Chelsea and was sold to a Polish frame-maker in Clapham or Battersea with a price-tag of £50. After changing hands a few times in quick succession, one owner being a hairdresser on Albermarle Street who had a side-line in selling pictures, it was bought by Jeremy Maas. Mr Maas was a pioneer in re-establishing the reputation of many painters of the Victorian era and Flaming June illustrated the front cover of his book Victorian Painters. After unsuccessful attempts to sell the picture to a British museum, Mr Maas sold Flaming June to Luis Ferre, then the Governor of Puerto Rico. It is now a highlight of the Museum in Ponce.
The re-emergence of this drawing, the only known head study for the painting, is an important rediscovery of a missing link in the preparatory work for Flaming June. Composition sketches and studies of the draperies are at Leighton House, the Royal Academy and at the Museo de Ponce, whilst a sheet of nude studies was sold in these rooms (17 May 2011, lot 18). The oil sketch was sold from the Leverhulme collection, in these rooms (27 June 2001, lot 401).