Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA (British, 1830-1896) Little Fatima

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Lot 34
Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA
(British, 1830-1896)
Little Fatima

Sold for £ 125,000 (US$ 164,327) inc. premium
Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA (British, 1830-1896)
Little Fatima
signed and inscribed 'Fred Leighton/V/Little Fatima' (on a label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
40.7 x 25.4cm (16 x 10in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Robert Kirkman Hodgson; Sale, Christie's, London, 21 November 1924, lot 18 (to Sampson).
    Private collection, Yorkshire.
    Peter Nahum, London.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 27 November 1991, lot 165.
    Private collection, UK.

    Exhibited
    London, Royal Academy, 1875, no. 345.
    London, Royal Academy, 1897, Exhibition of Works by the Late Lord Leighton of Stretton, no. 147.
    London, Peter Nahum, Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and their century, 1989, no. 102.

    Literature
    The Athenaeum, 1875, p. 592.
    The Times, 1875, p. 12.
    The Art Journal, 1875, p. 219.
    John Ruskin, Notes on some of the Principal Pictures exhibited in the Rooms of the Royal Academy, 1875, p. 36.
    Ernest Rhys, Frederic Lord Leighton, London, 1898, pp. 23-26.
    Mrs. Russell Barrington, The Life, Letters and Works of Frederic Leighton, London, 1906, Vol. 2, p. 386.
    Leonée and Richard Ormond, Lord Leighton, London, 1975, no. 233, p. 163.
    Peter Nahum, Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and their century, Exhibition catalogue, 1989, Vol. 1, no. 102, p. 105 (illustrated Vol. 2, plate 71).

    His passion for youth and beauty in his choice of models suggest that, like Ruskin, it was the freshness and grace of the innocent that moved him most profoundly.

    (Stephen Jones et al, Frederic, Lord Leighton, 1996, p. 147)

    Frederic Leighton was enraptured by travel, spending the late summer months each year overseas. He visited the Middle East many times and was very taken with its rich art and culture, producing his first orientalist work, A Reminiscence of Algiers, as early as 1858. Visits to Greece and Egypt in 1868, and a trip to Damascus in 1873, were instrumental in defining his interest in the exoticism of the Middle East, inspiring him to imbue his works with bright vibrant colours and detailed, intricate designs.1

    The present lot, a sumptuous yet delicate depiction of a little girl, reveals the delight that children brought to Leighton as subjects. The artist has carried Fatima to the fore by contrasting the brilliance of her costume against a dark background, and she appears innocent, clutching her cloak and engaging directly with the viewer.

    The inspiration for Little Fatima was a little girl whom the artist encountered during his travels; Leighton records the girl in his journals from 1868: 'A frequent companion in my work is my friend, little Fatma[sic], a sweet, small child of about five, with a bright face and two rows of the whitest teeth ever seen. She squats down snugly by my side, sometimes looking at the picture, sometimes at the painter, most often at the paint-box, at which she twiddles silently; sometimes she pensively draws a pattern with a little brown finger on my dusty boots. I remember at Rhodes, last year, a knot of little girls used to watch me sketching in the Street of the Knights; but the little Turks were not so nice as Fatma[sic], the little Arab.'2

    Leighton also depicted the figure of Little Fatima in the same purple costume and similar pose, standing full length, in Portions of the Interior of the Grand Mosque of Damascus (fig 1), painted circa 1873-5. The work was directly inspired by Damascus and was worked up from an oil sketch made at the time. The Athenaeum noted, a 'remarkably solid and delicately painted work'.3

    While the inspiration for the present lot was an Arabian girl, the sitter for the painting was in fact Connie Gilchrist, one of Leighton's favourite models in the 1870s. Notably, Gilchrist was the model for all of the young girls in The Daphnephoria (Royal Academy, 1876, no. 241) and for both Music Lesson (fig 2) and Study: At a reading desk (both Royal Academy, 1877, nos. 209 & 268 respectively).

    Commenting on the Royal Academy exhibition of 1875, the Art Journal noted: 'F. LEIGHTON, R.A...contributes five pictures of varying merit, but all refined and harmonious in colour and classic in beauty...The three-quarter face of a 'Venetian Girl' (354), in a green dress, gives Mr. Leighton an opportunity of showing how subtle is his sense of colour; and the same Venetian feeling comes out even more strongly in the purple cloak in which 'Little Fatima' (345) is draped. Fatima herself is simply a little oriental fairy of the most witching grace.'4

    The present lot was in the collection of Robert Kirkman Hodgson prior to his sale in 1924. He is probably the nephew of Stewart Hodgson, a close friend of Leighton's, who commissioned The Daphnephoria, for Lythe Hill, his house in Surrey.

    1 S. Jones, C. Newall, L. Ormond, R. Ormond and B. Read, Frederic, Lord Leighton, London, 1996, p. 147.
    2 Mrs R. Barrington, The Life, Letters and Works of Frederic Leighton, London, 1906, Vol. 2, p. 168.
    3 Leonée and Richard Ormond, Lord Leighton, London, 1975, p. 98.
    4 Art Journal, 1875, p. 219
Contacts
Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA (British, 1830-1896) Little Fatima
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