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A Victorian Obsession: The Perez Simon Collection at Leighton House Museum

Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) - Greek Girls picking up Pebbles, 1871.

Exhibition preview

FROM November 14, 2014 to March 29, 2015, Leighton House Museum will be home to rarely seen masterpieces of Victorian Art belonging to the Mexican collector Juan Antonio Perez Simon.

A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House Museum comprises 50 exceptional paintings from the largest Victorian private art collection outside Great Britain, shown for the first time in the UK.

Alongside five works by Frederic, Lord Leighton (four of which will be returning to the house in which they were painted), A Victorian Obsession will present paintings which have seldom if ever been exhibited before by many of the most celebrated Victorian artists, illustrating the astonishingly diverse representations of women that characterised this period of British art.

The images range from the domestic to the romantic and from the symbolic to the overtly sensual.

Highlights of the exhibition include Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s magnificent The Roses of Heliogabalus 1888, an iconic image of Roman decadence which has not been exhibited in London since 1913. One of the great paintings of the Victorian era, it memorably depicts the Emperor Heliogabalus’ suffocation of his guests beneath a torrent of rose petals.

Leighton’s Greek Girls Picking Up Pebbles by the Sea (1871) is one of his earliest and most striking ‘aesthetic’ works, placing formal harmony above narrative content and showing Leighton as the master of English drapery.

Two further works, Antigone (1882) and the sexually charged Crenaia (c 1880), feature the model Dorothy Dene. Leighton’s relationship with Dene was significant in his later years, when her role as his principal model, muse and social companion was widely commented on.

Also on display will be outstanding pictures by Albert Moore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, John William Waterhouse, Edward Poynter, John Strudwick and John William Godward.

As President of the Royal Academy, Leighton and his extraordinary studio-house were at the centre of the late Victorian art world. His annual concerts and receptions became fixtures of the artistic social calendar. These artists knew the house well and Leighton’s own collection contained pictures of several of them, including a nude study by Albert Moore that will return to Leighton House for the first time since 1896 as part of the exhibition.

The exhibition has been shown at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum in Paris and at the Chiostro del Bramente in Rome to great acclaim and is currently on display in Madrid at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

The exhibition will be curated by Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator at Leighton House Museum, and Veronique Gerard Powell, who has worked extensively on the Perez Simon Collection.

With the exception of Leighton’s painting studio, the permanent collections will be cleared from Leighton House and the exhibition hung throughout the historic interiors. Leighton’s extraordinary decorative schemes will provide a uniquely appropriate and authentic setting for the pictures belonging to Juan Antonio Perez Simon, making the exhibition an unmissable event and an unforgettable one-off aesthetic experience.

A Victorian Obsession Gallery.

Tickets: £10, £6 concessions, Art Fund and National Trust Members 50% discount – available on 0800 912 6968 or online at

Times: Daily (except Tuesday) from 10am to 5.30pm.

Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, London, W14 8LZ