Phoebe

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Lord Frederick Leighton

c.1830-c.1896

Aesthetic, New Sculpture (19th Century British), Olympian Classical Revivalist painter, sculptor, illustrator and writer

Phoebe

55.9 x 61 cms | 22 x 24 ins
Oil on canvas

Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross

| United States

Comment from ARC Chairman Fred Ross, the present owner of Leighton's Phoebe:

This painting is one of Leighton's most compelling single figure works. The entirely original perspective of viewing her on a slightly upward angle gives her a regal and monumental elegance which, along with the deep tonality of the background, accentuates her subtle expression of bemused interest and curiosity. The viewer is at once also curious about her circumstance and entranced by her vivid glowing features and riveting beauty.

The model was Dorothy Dene, an actress who was one of Leighton's favorite models. She appears also in Flaming June and The Bath of Psyche. Leighton was instrumental in helping her with her acting career. Dene was her stage name. Her real name was Alice Pullan, one of four daughters and her family was long time friends of Leighton.

It currently hangs between Dicksee's Yseult and Waterhouse's Tristan and Isolde in our collection, and not only qualitatively holds up to those two masterpieces, but nearly eclipses the entire space around them which also includes two Bouguereaus. I felt as if Phoebe were watching Queen Yseult and empathizing with the pain on her face as she wrings her hands in despair. She appears to be thinking, "Physical Beauty is never enough ... from one who knows". Despite Dene's help from Leighton, her acting career fizzled, and was left depending on him for support and social position for many years.

Comment from ARC Webmaster, Iian Neill: