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Perseus and Andromeda

Frederic Leighton1891

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Cassiope, Queen of Ethiopia, boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids (or sea nymphs). In revenge the Nereids persuaded Neptune to send a sea monster to ravage the Ethiopian coasts. Cassiope’s daughter, Andromeda, was then tied to the rocks as a victim for the monster to discourage him from further attacks. In this painting she is about to be rescued by Perseus - but only just in time; ultimately of course, he will marry her. All the drama is here: Perseus’s arrow has just struck the dragon; Andromeda looks round for help but cannot see her rescuer, and her clothes are just about to come off entirely. The dragon is wounded but still looks up defiantly; he has got Andromeda twisted into his coils and will not easily let go. The contorted pose of Andromeda enclosed within the twisting form of the monster reflects the sophisticated linear rhythms of Leighton’s late style, but more unforgettable is Andromeda’s soft white body seen against the hard dark scales of the dragon.

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Details

  • Title: Perseus and Andromeda
  • Creator: Frederic, Lord Leighton
  • Date Created: 1891
  • tag / style: Frederic, Lord Leighton; Greek mythology, High Victorian Art; Perseus; Andromeda; serpent; sea; rescue; winged horse; nude; naked
  • Physical Dimensions: w1292 x h2350 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Frederic Leighton was born the son of a wealthy doctor in Scarborough but spent much of his early life on the continent, where he trained as an artist in Florence, Brussels, Frankfurt and Paris. At the age of 25 one of his pictures, exhibited at the Royal Academy, was bought by Queen Victoria. This purchase immediately established his reputation and launched him on a career of spectacular success. Within less than 10 years he became an Associate of the Royal Academy, in 1868 he became a full member of the RA., and in 1878 he was elected President of the Royal Academy and Knighted in the same year. Leighton’s work did not meet with universal approval. The artist Whistler described Leighton’s work as ‘cosmetic’; ‘bloodless’ was another description. Leighton lived in an extraordinary, purpose-built house on the edge of Holland Park, London. The house had only one bedroom but a large studio and gallery. The principal feature of the house, which still stands and is open to the public, is the Arab Hall which is decorated with a huge collection of North African and Middle Eastern tiles. Leighton was fluent in several languages and an inspirational speaker. He received doctorates from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Dublin. He was created a baronet in 1886 and elevated to the peerage on the 24th. January 1896. Leighton is the only artist to receive this honour. He died the following day.
  • Additional artwork information: To learn more about this artist follow this link to the Walker’s online feature: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/featuredartists/leighton/
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by Sir William P Hartley in 1909

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