Flaming June

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This article is about the Frederic Leighton painting. For the 1997 trance song by BT, see Flaming June (song).
Flaming June
Flaming June, by Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896).jpg
Artist Frederic Leighton
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 120 cm × 120 cm (47 in × 47 in)
Location Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Flaming June is a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. Painted with oil paints on a 47-by-47-inch (1,200 mm × 1,200 mm) 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 symbolizes the fragile link between sleep and death.[1]

The actresses Dorothy Dene and Mary Lloyd, who were 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). Afterwards, it was promptly purchased by the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where it currently resides.


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 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 realism of the transparent material worn by the sleeping woman, the stunningly rich colours and the perfectly recreated marble surround are characteristic of Leighton's work, as is his use of natural light. He allows the sunset in the background to appear as molten gold.[3]


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 Museo de Arte de Ponce 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 would not 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 was taken to the Museo de Arte de Ponce and was prominently displayed. With the renewal of interest in Victorian art, in later years it was also loaned to important expositions around the world. Flaming June was on display at the Museo del Prado in Madrid in 2008 and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart in Germany in 2009.

In 2015, an original pencil and chalk study for part of the painting – the model's head – was found on the back of a bedroom door in the mansion inherited by Bamber Gascoigne after the death of his great aunt Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe. Art historians had known a sketch existed as it had been included in an art magazine in 1895 but did not know who owned it; it was probably bought by the Duchess immediately after Leighton's death.[5]


  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.
  5. ^ "Pre-Raphaelite study behind door in English mansion", The Guardian, 1 May 2015, archived from the original on 3 May 2015, retrieved 3 May 2015 


  • 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

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