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FREDERICK LORD LEIGHTON (British, 1830-1896)

FREDERICK LORD LEIGHTON (British, 1830-1896)


oil on canvas
23¾ x 19½in. (60.3 x 49.5cm.)
Charles Churchill, Weybridge Park; sale, Christie's, February 16, 1917, lot 90
Arthur Tooth & Son's, London
Viscount Leverhulme, sale; Anderson Galleries, New York, February 18, 1926, lot 166 (illustrated)
Robert Humbert, sale; Sotheby's, New York, June 12, 1980, lot 31 (illustrated)
Christopher Wood, London Anon. sale, Christie's, London, June 4, 1982
Barry Friedman, Ltd., New York
Shepherd Gallery, New York
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, February 22, 1989, lot 134
The Athenaeum, May 6, 1881
The Art Journal, 1882, p. 211
R. and L. Ormond, Lord Leighton, London, 1975, p. 166, no. 296
London, The Royal Academy, 1882, no. 474
London, The Guild Hall, 1897, no. 83
New York, Shepherd Gallery, English 19th Century Pre-Raphaelite and Academic Drawings, Watercolours, Graphics, Painting and Sculpture, 1983, exh. cat. no.53 (illustrated)

Lot Essay

Frederick Lord Leighton is credited by scholars and collectors for his portrayal of the classical female in painting. His women, as well as being pleasing to the eye, are depicted with a complex inner psyche. The present work was painted in 1882 at the time that Leighton was at the height of his artistic career. Antigone is portrayed as an auburn-haired beauty. Typical of Leighton's portraits, the viewer is thrust into a confrontation with the sitter's moods and tempraments. The dramatic contrast between the opaque colors of the skin against the somber background forms a striking interplay between light and color, which is very evident in his latter works. The theatrical tilting of the head with the stern fixed glare of her eyes makes one wonder if this may be the moment in which she contemplates suicide.

Antigone was the heroine in one of seven surviving tragedies written by the Greek playwright Sophocles. The daughter of Oedipus and the niece of Creon, she disobeyed her uncle (the king of Thebes) and buried the body of her brother Polyneices, who was brutally killed while attacking the city. The punishment implemanted by the king was that the corpse was to remain unburied as an eternal curse to the soul. Antigone's love and loyalty to her brother forced her to disobey this command. Her punishment for this would be execution. Creon was persuaded by the prophet Teiresias to show pity for Antigone and pardon her ill act. Unfortunately, he was too late. She had taken her life while a captive in prison. As s sentence for Creon's denial of humanity's common obligations toward the dead, the Gods of Olympus altered fate causing the suicide of his wife and son.


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