'And the sea gave up the dead which were in it'

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Lord Frederick Leighton

c.1830-c.1896

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

'And the sea gave up the dead which were in it'

1891-1892

cms | ins
Oil on canvas

Tate Gallery

London | United Kingdom

Contemporary Comment from Private Views in the Artists' Studios - 1892:

The title which Sir Frederic Leighton has finally selected for this work is taken from the twentieth chapter of the Revelation "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it." It is, in a word, a vision of the Last Judgement. Three figures dominate the spacious canvas. In the centre is a man - the only living being of the group - who with his right arm supports his wife, while with his left he clasps his boy who clings with filial affection to his side. The three are being slowly drawn by some unseen mysterious all-compelling force from the depths of an inky and turbulent sea upwards. The man's eye is fixed upon the heavens, which are strangely troubled and filled with an unnatural light - "a dramatic sky," as the artist tersely and fittingly describes it - and it expresses hope tempered with fear. The interval between death and judgment is at an end; the soul has dawned; and filled with thoughts of his early career, the man gazes with awe upon the great white throne, whereupon sits the author of his being with the great book of Life. His wife still sleeps the sleep of death; but a certain warmth of colour in the limbs of the half naked boy indicates his rapid return to existence. Hard by the dominant group is a half risen corpse, whose arms are folded across the breast, and who is still clad in the cerements in which he was committed to the deep; while king and commoners are rising in the background. For "the dead, small and great," are to stand before God. The design for this picture was prepared some years ago, and it was originally intended for the decoration, in mosaic, of the dome of St Paul's. eight large circles were to be filled by Sir Frederic Leighton, and a number of smaller ones by Mr Poynter.

Source: Victorian Art in Great Britain.