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Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

1 of 56 portraits of Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton, by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton, circa 1848-1850 -NPG 2141 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton
Pencil on white paper, circa 1848-1850
7 3/4 in. x 6 in. (197 mm x 152 mm)
NPG 2141


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Inscriptionback to top

Signed in pencil lower right: ‘F Leighton’.

This portraitback to top

This work was almost certainly produced when Leighton was a student in Frankfurt, between 1846 and 1852. The date is based upon comparison with other early portraits, and an age of between eighteen and twenty seems appropriate for the youthful appearance of the sitter. It was presented to the National Portrait Gallery in 1926 by Caroline Nias.[1] Her mother, Lady Nias (née Isabel Laing), and her maternal grandparents were close friends of the Leighton family. In 1853, Leighton met Isabel in Rome, and it is clear from contemporary letters that he had a considerable romantic interest in her. Acting as her gallant escort around the city, the artist wrote home: ‘I have lionised Isabel all over Rome … you may easily imagine that I have not slept in the afternoons since she has been here’.[2] Leighton spent further time with Isabel that year when he began a portrait of her, which had been commissioned by her father.[3] However, it is unlikely that the pair felt more than companionship towards one another, mingled with mild flirtatiousness, and two years later Isabel married the intrepid explorer Joseph Nias, who was thirty-five years her senior.[4]

This early self-portrait exemplifies Leighton’s innate skill as a draughtsman. The features are confidently expressed, and cross hatching is delicately employed to give gentle definition to the contours of the face.

See NPG collections 2141, 2141(a–d)

Elizabeth Heath

Footnotesback to top

1) Letter from C. Nias to NPG [possibly J.M. Milner], NPG RP 2141.
2) Letter from F. Leighton to his mother, 28 Mar. 1853 (postmark); repr. Barrington 1906, vol.1, p.125.
3) Fitzwilliam M., Cambridge, 1501.
4) Ormond & Ormond 1975, p.17.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, to left, facing front, clear and open gaze, with medium to long hair curling above the ears, wearing a high collar and necktie fastened in a bow.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1926; 1927; 2003.

Provenanceback to top

Presented to the National Portrait Gallery by Miss Caroline Nias in memory of her mother, Lady Nias, 1926.

Reproductionsback to top

Barrington 1906, vol.1, p.17.

Ormond & Ormond 1975, pl.6.

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