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Frederic Leighton

    London Life Places

    leighton house museum

    January 24, 2013

    When i first visited leighton house museum many years ago, it literally took my breath away. Located on the edge of holland park in kensington, the house is one of the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century. It had extensive restoration and refurbishment between 2008 and 2010 and so I was delighted to see the new changes. It’s even more magical now.

    The house was the former home and studio of the leading victorian artist, frederic leighton (1830-1896). Built to designs by george aitchison, it was extended and embellished over a period of 30 years to create a private palace of art!

    Almost all of leighton’s exceptional collections of of fine art, decorative art and furniture were sold through christie’s auction house in the summer after his death and dispersed around the world. The house today is largely a reconstruction of the home that leighton lived in, painstakingly researched. The museum stresses that all efforts are made to trace and return the original contents but still, many objects remain absent.  However, it is absolutely obvious by visiting the house that a lot of his original vision has survived and these incredible interiors very much communicate the spirit with which this home must have been lovingly created.

    I want you to know that it’s nearly impossible to take good pictures downstairs. It’s rather dark and it was tricky to focus. In the spirit of this home, i hope you enjoy these spectacular interiors.

    Here is a little tour of some of the house.

    The arab hall is the centerpiece of the house. Designed to display leighton’s priceless collection of over a thousand islamic tiles, mostly brought back from damascus in syria, the interior reminds me of the orient. I believe it also acted as a relaxation area and the trickling of water is incredibly soothing.



    Probably my favourite parts of the house were all the nooks. I just wanted to lie there and look through these lattice windows.


    The staircase hall. Those blue tiles, just gorgeous!



    The colours and details here below are breathtaking. I love the japanese pots standing on a mosaic floor under a 17th century turkish wedding chest.


    The wedding chest (above) has been adapted as a seat for the stairs (here below). Another nook I completely love!


    Look at that peacock! Standing tall and proud. Apparently this was a symbol of a victorian art movement that leighton is associated with – the aesthetic movement. Apparently the aesthetes were appalled by the ugliness of victorian britain and wanted to re-introduce a sense of beauty into the world through their art.



    The drawing room. Check out that funky chandelier!


    This red colouring of the dining room was deliberate as to show off the precious ceramics on the wall.


    Eurydice to orpheus – a painting by leighton.


    We are now on the first floor. I just couldn’t get this photo right. I tried, promise! This must be my absolute favourite nook. Basically it’s a daybed with these lattice windows that back on to the arab hall downstairs. Thanks to the lovely francoise I now know these are called  mashrabiya panels. So when you stand there, you can hear the trickling of water and look out to the lower floor. It’s so beautiful.


    A selection of seating furniture.





    We are now in leighton’s studio. It was the central feature of his home. It was here he spent most of his days working on his commissions. You can’t see it in the next 2 photos but there’s a large glass window that floods the room with light.



    Here are some close-ups shots.







    There is a cabinet with leighton’s oil paints. 


    This was one of the highlights for me. A stained window right at the back of the studio. There are 2 and i couldn’t tear myself away.



    I hope you enjoyed my little tour, but for those of you in london or the uk, there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. 

    Just off the bedroom they showed a video called: closer to home – the restauration of leighton house museum. In the period from october 2008 to april 2010, when they closed for the major refurbishment, the film-maker frédérique morgan was commissioned to record the project from beginning to end. The film tells the story of the entire project and celebrates the work of the outstanding craft specialists who brought the work to completion. It’s about 1 hour long and although i watched most of it at the museum, i bought the dvd (£10) to savour at home. For all your budding interior designers, you’ll see weaving and craftsmanship like never before.