Frederic Leighton


Melittion by Frederic Leighton

Artwork Detail

Members of the 'Olympian' school of Victorian painting opposed Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist Romantic realism, specialising instead in subjects drawn from classical mythology. Frederic, Lord Leighton, studied in Frankfurt between 1850 and 1852 under the Nazarene artist Edward von Steinle, who was an important influence on Leighton's developing œuvre. He travelled in Italy, and studied further in Paris, so he was familiar with major developments in European art, gradually introducing into his work more painterly effects than the relatively hard-edged Nazarene style. Although he became friendly with members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle in London, Leighton retained a fascination with classical and academic art. He was particularly fond of depicting beautiful women, and Melittion shows the skill at handling drapery, which confirmed him as the master of 'Victorians in togas'. As far as one can tell, the title of this work is a fantasy one, as there is no figure Mellition mentioned in books of classical history or art. The woman's beautiful face and dreamy gaze suggest sleep or indolence. In the classical world the pomegranate that can be seen in the upper right-hand corner is a symbol of fertility, whereas in Christian symbolism it refers to the Passion, and is often shown in the Christ-child's hand. The taste of the bitter seeds foreshadows his death, but the fruit as a whole symbolises resurrection and new life. (from The Guide, 2001)

Frederic Leighton
Production date
oil on canvas
1219 x 914 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Moss Davis, 1927
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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