Flaming June

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Flaming June
Flaming June, by Fredrick Lord Leighton (1830-1896).jpg
Artist Frederic Leighton
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 120 cm × 120 cm (47 in × 47 in)
Location Ponce Museum of Art, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Flaming June is a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. Painted with oil paints on a 47" × 47" square canvas, it is widely considered to be Leighton's magnum opus, showing his classicist nature. It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naiads the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolises the fragile link between sleep and death.[1]

The actress Dorothy Dene and Mary Lloyd, who was depicted in paintings by various Pre-Raphaelite artists, have been variously credited with modelling for the work.

Flaming June was auctioned in the 1960s, during a period of time known to be difficult for selling Victorian era paintings, where it failed to sell for its low reserve price of US$140 (the equivalent of $840 in contemporary prices). Afterward, it was promptly purchased by the Ponce Museum of Art in Ponce, Puerto Rico where it currently resides.

Appraisal[edit]

Flaming June was first begun as a motif to adorn a marble bath in one of Leighton's other works, Summer Slumber. He became so attached to the design that he decided to create it as a painting in its own right.

The position of the sleeping woman gave Leighton a great deal of trouble. He made several preliminary sketches to determine the way in which she should lie; in particular he had difficulty making the angle of her right arm look natural. His studies show that the picture went through at least four evolutionary sketches before Leighton came to on the end result. Out of these studies, four are nude and one is draped.[2] The draped figure looks the least lifelike, demonstrating Leighton's need to draw from a naked model to achieve a fidelity to nature.

Flaming June has become Leighton's most recognisable picture. The transparent material worn by the sleeping woman – through which her right nipple can be seen clearly – is typical of Leighton's artistic predilections, as are the stunningly rich colours and the perfectly recreated marble surround. Natural light too is a constant preoccupation for Leighton, and here he allows the sunset in the background to appear as molten gold.[3]

Circumstances of arrival in Puerto Rico[edit]

In 1963, Luis A. Ferré — the noted Puerto Rican industrialist and politician, who would be elected governor five years later – was on a trip around Europe, engaged in purchasing paintings and sculptures for the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico, which he had founded. On a stop in a gallery in Amsterdam, he and René Taylor found Flaming June abandoned in a corner. They became impressed by the painting's beauty, and asked the owner about it.

The owner said no one was interested in the painting because it was considered too old-fashioned for the time. But he added that if Ferré was interested in it, that he could have it for $1,000. Even though Ferré thought it was expensive, they entered into an agreement that Ferré would wire the money for the painting. The man gave his word of not selling it to anyone else.

Antonio Luis Ferré, the industrialist's son, many years later related that his father spent a sleepless night, worried that the gallery owner wouldn't keep his promise.[4] Ferré called him in the morning, assuring him that the money would be wired and asking him to keep his promise – which he did, even though other people had already gone to the gallery and liked the painting.

Thus, Flaming June travelled to the Ponce Museum of Art and was prominently displayed. In later years, it was loaned to important expositions around the world, with the renewal of interest in Victorian art. Flaming June was on display at the Prado, Madrid in 2008 and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany in 2009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cf. Leighton, Frederic: Flaming June (1895), article on The Independent dated 25 April 2008.
  2. ^ Cf. T. Barringer & E. Prettejohn, Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity, Yale University Press (1999), s.v. "Flaming June".
  3. ^ A. Weidinger, Magnificent Extravagance – Frederic, Lord Leighton's Flaming June 1894–95, Belvedere (2010), passim.
  4. ^ Antonio Luis Ferré, article in El Nuevo Día, 22 April 2001

Bibliography[edit]

  • Barringer, Tim & Prettejohn, Elizabeth, Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity (Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art), Yale University Press (1999). ISBN 978-0-300-07937-1
  • Barrington, Russel, The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton, 2 Voll., BiblioBazaar (2010). ISBN 978-1-143-23340-1
  • Weidinger, Alfred, Magnificent Extravagance – Frederic, Lord Leighton's Flaming June 1894–95. Sleeping Beauty. Masterpieces of Victorian Painting from Museo de Arte de Ponce. Edited by Agnes Husslein-Arco and Alfred Weidinger. Belvedere, Vienna 2010. ISBN 978-3-901508-84-4

External links[edit]