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Lord Leighton PRA, Sketch model for figure holding lyre in 'The Daphnephoria'

Sketch model for figure holding lyre in 'The Daphnephoria', ca. 1891

Lord Leighton PRA (1830 - 1896)

RA Collection: Art

This is a plaster study for Leighton’s painting ‘The Daphnephoria’ (1874-1876, Lady Lever Art Gallery, London), which was painted for James Stewart Hodgson. When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1875, the catalogue entry for the painting included the following quotation from Proclus’s Chrestomathy:

‘The Daphnephoria; a triumphal procession held every ninth year at Thebes, in honour of Apollo, and to commemorate a victory of the Thebans over the Aeolians of Arne. Its name was derived from the laurel branches carried by those who took part in the festival – the laurel, or more properly the bay, being sacred to Apollo. The procession is led by a youthful priest called the Daphephoros (the laurel bearer), before him a boy, his kinsman, bears a symbolic standard called the Kopo, and indicating the sun, moon and stars. Behind the Daphenephoros three lads carry a trophy of golden armour; they are followed by the choir of Theban maidens who, crowned with laurel and each bearing a laurel branch, sing the hymn to Apollo under the direction of the chorus leader. The procession is closed by boys carrying votive tripods. In the valley below is seen the town of Thebes.’

In an interview in The Studio (1893, p. 7) Leighton explained the role that his small sculptural studies played in the composition of his paintings:

‘“these models are clad with real drapery wetted to increase the effect of its fineness in proportion to the small scale of the folds” and are made only for the sake of ten minutes drawings, the serious study of the drapery being made from the living model or the lay figure. They help also to facilitate the disposition of the grouping, but are done with as soon as the cartoon is ready for tracing.’

It was while modelling the processional figures for 'The Daphnephoria' that Leighton decided to venture into sculpture professionally.

Object details

Sketch model for figure holding lyre in 'The Daphnephoria'
Lord Leighton PRA (1830 - 1896)
ca. 1891
Object type
Painted plaster

380 mm x 160 mm x 135 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Augusta Matthews 1896 and Mrs Alexandra Orr 1896

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