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Flaming june

Painting, 1895, 120×120 cm

Description of the artwork «Flaming june»

To create the most famous paintings Leighton was inspired by his model, which once just fell asleep in the studio. The artist was struck by the flexibility of the body, and that intricate posture, which the girl took, without experiencing discomfort.

"Layton's Burning June": in the footsteps of the greats

Art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon wrote that the forms of a sleeping girl were modeled on the famous michelangelovo statues "Night" on the Medici tomb in Florence. It was this work that Leighton considered the greatest among all European art.

Leighton's sleeping girlfriend also put a hand to her hair, and her elbow forms a sharp corner. The sharpness of the elbow is echoed by the knee, which is practically pressed to the chin. Unlike the "Night", the girl is deployed as her mirror reflection, and she is not naked, but dressed in a transparent tunic flowing like tongues of flame.

Work on the pose of the model brought Leighton some difficulties. With particular difficulty he was given the girl’s left hand. At least five sketches took it so that all the details harmoniously interacted, and the model on the canvas would finally assume the desired position. It is curious that in four of the five preliminary sketches the girl appears naked, and only at the last the master “drapes” the model. Most likely, Leighton, with the help of nudity, tried to achieve the maximum accuracy in conveying an intricate, but at the same time unconstrained pose.

"Life is a dream"

The theme of sleep agitated artists for many centuries and especially revealed in the Victorian era. Sleep, especially girl's sleep, was given a special romanticism and appeal. Images of sleeping girls met almost every artist of that time, whether Sleeping Beauty or dormant Ariadne. But only Leighton managed to capture the dream in such a way that it became recognizable by everyone, to put into it all his understanding of modern art and the works of old masters, to combine mathematical precision and lyrical harmony.

In the corner of the canvas, on the balustrade, an oleander blooms - a poisonous plant with beautiful bright colors. Perhaps it denotes a thin line that is invisible to man between sleep and death. Against the background of a raging stream of thinnest fabric, bright, burning colors of the June sunset, the girl’s face impresses with its Olympic calmness, sculpturalness and precision.

Behind the image of a girl sleeping in a burning sunset and in the fiery tunic of a girl is a real woman. This may be Dorothy Dene or Mary Lloyd - two favorite models of Layton, but the researchers have not yet determined which of them owns the heroine's face.

"Burning June": from the first owner to the present day

The picture has a long history, not always corresponding to its significance and beauty. The first owner of the canvas was The Graphic magazine, which acquired it from Leighton to create a quality copy as a Christmas present. In the 1900s, it was deposited at the Ashmole Museum in Oxford. After this picture is lost from sight. It was only in the early 1960s that she was found in one of the houses in London, hidden in a chimney. Then Lloyd Webber - the future English composer saw her in one of the shops and began to beg his grandmother to buy it. But the grandmother turned out to be very progressive views and was adamant: “there will be no Victorian junk in my apartment,” she said.

Then the picture turned out to be in the Maas gallery, where Luis Ferre, an industrialist from Puerto Rico who bought art for the Ponse Art Museum, which he himself had founded, was eager to purchase it. He offered 2,000 pounds per canvas. The son of an industrialist later said that Luis Ferre on the night before the conclusion of the transaction could not sleep because of the excitement, fearing that the purchase might not take place. However, everything went smoothly, and Leighton's “Burning June” went to Puerto Rico, where he was put on public display.

In the 1990s, interest in Victorian art increased significantly, and the picture traveled around the world, participating in exhibitions. In 2017, “Burning June”, for the first time in 85 years, was again in the place where it was written by the author: at the Leighton House Museum in London.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Genre scene

Style of art: Academism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1895

Size: 120×120 cm

Artwork in selections: 76 selections