Frederic, Lord Leighton, Study for Rizpah, a black and white chalk drawing on brown paper

England, around AD 1893

The concubine of Saul with two white leopards under a juniper tree

As a child, Leighton (1830-1896) travelled widely in Europe with his family. In Frankfurt, he came under the influence of the Nazarenes, a group of German painters devoted to restoring a moral purpose to art. Their precision and carefully-researched historicism stayed with Leighton, but their devotion to the art of Italy had a more dramatic and immediate effect on his work.

Leighton moved to Rome in 1852, and there painted Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence (1855, Royal Collection). It was purchased by Queen Victoria at the Royal Academy exhibition in London that year, securing the reputation of the young artist. Leighton finally settled in London in 1859, where he was well received by Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites. Leighton's splendid classical compositions, displaying remarkable draughtsmanship and a rich colour-sense, gained him increasing stature in the art establishment. He was made President of the Royal Academy in 1878. Just before he died, Leighton was ennobled (becoming 1st Baron Leighton of Stretton), the only British artist to have been so honoured.

This expressive drapery study is for the figure of Rizpah in a painting of the same name (private collection) that Leighton exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1893 at the height of his career. It depicted Rizpah, the concubine of Saul, protecting the bodies of her sons after they had been hanged by the Gibeonites (II Samuel, 21).

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More information


L. Ormond and R. Ormond, Lord Leighton (London, Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 1975)

S. Jones, C. Newall, L. Ormond and others, Frederic Leighton, 1830-1896 (Royal Academy, London, 1996)


Height: 344.000 mm
Width: 250.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1897-5-12-17



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