Leighton House Museum is the former home and studio of the Victorian artist Sir Frederic Leighton. I’ve posted earlier about the curious financial history of Lord Leighton’s best known painting, Flaming June, and its upcoming visit to the United States.
“Flaming June,” by Sir Frederic Leighton
Returning to Leighton House was at the top of my list of things I wanted to do in London, for two reasons.
The first reason was that the jewel in the crown at Leighton House is one of my favourite rooms: The Arab Hall. I
could have spent hours in this beautiful, serene, three-storey work of art.
The second reason was that Leighton House was hosting an exhibition of more than fifty rarely exhibited pictures from the Pérez Simón Collection, which is the largest private collection of Victorian and Edwardian art outside Great Britain, now that the Forbes collection has been dispersed by Malcolm Forbes’ massively inept heirs. Juan Antonio Pérez Simón, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire, is one of the world’s foremost private art collectors. His taste is wide-ranging—he buys what he likes, not what’s fashionable—and his collection exceeds 3,000 paintings.
I hadn’t known just what was in his Victorian collection, and was delighted to find that it included one of my favourite paintings: Waterhouse’s “The Crystal Ball.”
“The Crystal Ball,” by John William Waterhouse
But the clear star of the collection, w/a room to itself, was Alma-Tadema’s “The Roses of Heliogabalus.”
“The Roses of Heliogabalus,” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
I posted some notes about “The Roses of Heliogabalus” last fall, before I’d decided to spend early Spring in London, and long before I’d learned of this exhibition.
I had a hard time leaving Leighton House. I walked through the full exhibition two or three times, with long visits to the Arab Hall at the start of the show and “The Roses of Heliogabalus” at the end. But I had plans for the evening, and finally had to say goodbye to Holland Park.