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Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1830-1896)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more Property from the Collection of the late Bryan and Celia Skinner, Jersey
Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1830-1896)


Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1830-1896)
oil on canvas
50 x 29½ in. (127 x 74.9 cm.)
The Rev. W.T. Houldsworth.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 26 October 1979, lot 219.
with Jeremy Maas, London, where purchased by the present owner.
H. Blackburn (ed.), Academy Notes, London, 1879, p. 34, illustrated.
Times, 3 May 1879, p. 5.
Athenaeum, no. 2688, 3 May 1879, p. 572.
Illustrated London News, 3 May 1879, p. 414.
Art Journal, 1879, p. 127.
E. Rhys, Sir Frederic Leighton, Bart, PRA: An Illustrated Chronicle, London, 1895, p. 69.
Mrs R. Barrington, The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton, London, 1906, vol. 2, p. 387.
L. and R. Ormond, Lord Leighton, Yale, 1975, pp. 128, 165, no. 262 (as untraced).
C. Newall, The Art of Lord Leighton, Oxford, 1990, pp. 97-8, illustrated pl. 65.
S. Jones, C. Newall, L. Ormond, R. Ormond and B. Read, Frederic Leighton, exh. Royal Academy, London, 1996, cat. p. 186, under no. 80.
London, Royal Academy, 1879, no. 289.
Manchester, Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, no. 437.
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Lot Essay

The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879. Leighton was then forty-seven, and had been elected President in succession to Sir Francis Grant the previous year. Of the eight works he submitted, the maximum number allowable to him as an Academician, two were large and self-consciously important works, designed to display the artist's skill and serve as examples to those still aspiring to the Olympian heights that he had so triumphantly scaled: Elijah in the Wilderness (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and a full-length portrait of Countess Brownlow (The Brownlow Collection, Belton House). A third was a sympathetic likeness of Leighton's old friend Giovanni Costa (Leighton House), while the remaining five were half-length or three-quarter-length studies of attractive female models. Given exotic girls' names as titles, these were characteristic of many of Leighton's later works, frankly appealing to the insatiable appetite for such 'fancy' pictures among the late-Victorian gallery-going public.

Indeed, it was not only the public that liked them. The critics too were far kinder to these comparatively modest productions than they were to the ambitious Elijah and Countess Brownlow. And they particularly approved of Amarilla, the largest and most substantial of the group Leighton was offering in 1879. F.G. Stephens, writing as usual in the Athenaeum, admired the picture's colour scheme as established by the model's red dress and 'green' [sic] velvet jacket, the autumnal tints of the 'trellised arbour', and 'the white stone of the parapet' beyond which 'a sunny sea' could be glimpsed. He also relished the 'delightful care and rare skill' with which the artist had portrayed the model herself. 'The expression is at once sweet and luxurious, and there is dreamy emotion in the eyes and on the lips. Here is a beautiful face, not free from sensuousness, but untainted - an image of perfected womanhood.'

The Art Journal was no less enthusiastic. Having praised two other pictures of the same type, Biondina and Catarina, the writer continued: 'One could scarce imagine their being surpassed till one enters the next gallery and stands in presence of Amarilla...the tenderness of the beauty (here) is simply beyond all praise'.

According to the catalogue of the Leighton centenary exhibition (loc. cit.), the model for Amarilla also appears in Nausicaa (private collection; Ormond, op. cit., col. pl. V) and Winding the Skein (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Ormond, pl. 123), both of which had been exhibited at the RA in 1878, a year earlier than our picture. It is further stated that when Amarilla was sold at Christie's in October 1979 'the model (was) described as from Capri'. To this the cataloguer adds: 'This may...simply mean that Leighton has posed a model in clothes brought back from the island'.

In fact no such statement is made in the Christie's catalogue, where all comment on the picture is avoided. However, although Amarilla must have been painted in Leighton's Holland Park studio, he clearly intended to associate the picture with Italy. The title, the costume, and the choice of model all tell us as much, and more than one critic went along with the idea, Stephens describing the subject as 'a damsel of Capua' and the Times referring to Leighton's 'South Italian model'. Moreover, the artist may well have been thinking specifically of Capri, whether the costume came from there or not. He had paid a five-week visit to the island in the early summer of 1859, finding inspiration for some of his finest landscape sketches, and he may have returned when in Italy with Costa in October 1878. The following year he showed two Capri landscapes at the Grosvenor Gallery, raising the possibility that they and Amarilla may all be products of the same visit.

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