Study of a young woman seated on the ground

Studies of male figures in medieval dress — a group of standing figures, a single standing figure looking down, two draped figures, one kneeling and one crouching, and a subsidiary study of a draped standing figure; for the mural 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to War' in the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum by Frederic, Lord Leighton, PRA RWS 1830-1896.

The recto is marked with the studio stamp which the Fine Art Society put on all the drawings which remained at Leighton House at the time of Leighton's death. (Frits Lugt, Marques de Collections, supplement, 1956, number 1741a)

Black and white chalks on blue paper. 8 1/2 X 11 1/2 inches, 21.6 X 29.2 cm.

Exhibited: London, Christopher Powney and Julian Hartnoll, 1979, English Figure Drawings, number 43.

Commentary by Hilary Morgan

'The Arts of Industry as Applied to War' was commissioned from Leighton in 1868 to decorate a lunette in the South Kensington Museum. Leighton worked on the cartoon for the mural between 1870 and 1872, andin the following year completed the cartoon for the companion mural'The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace'. 'Peace' shows classical women adorning themselves, whereas 'War' shows a medieval city preparing for war. In 1876 Leighton began work on the 'War' mural, painting in a medium of oil spirit on plaster, or false fresco, and he worked in earnest on it for about two years in 1878-80. The dimensions of the finished mural in the Victoria and Albert Museum are 16 x 35 feet. The present drawing is a study for the group of elegant figures and servitors on the left-hand of the centre of the composition. The kneeling and crouching figures on the right-hand side of the sheet flank a central group in the painting, which consists of the central standing figure combined with, and on the left-hand side of, the left-hand group on the sheet.

Even in a subject of war, Leighton's aesthetic concerns were paramount, as can be seen in the grace of the figures arming themselves in the present drawing. This led Ford Madox Brown, still upholding the Pre-Raphaelite concern with moral earnestness, to criticise the mural: 'Why has not the President taken advantage of some such historical incident as "Michelangelo fortifying Florence," instead of designing a pack of sleepy youths apparently trying on arms and costumes for a fancy dress ball?' (Spielmann, 1896)

References

Morgan, Hilary, and Peter Nahum. Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989. Catalogue number 101.

Spielmann, M.H. [Ford Madox Brown] "The Late Lord Leighton." Magazine of Art . 1896.

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