The Painter's Honeymoon
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For some painters, a depiction of a honeymoon might be a little...spicier.

One might imagine that artistic types bring their intense passion to all aspects of their lives, especially their bedrooms. Think Pablo Picasso and all his wives and mistresses. But Frederic Leighton obviously had a different idea of romance.

Lord Frederic Leighton never wed, or if he did it was to his work; the man once proclaimed, "I am married to my art."  Leighton was incredibly accomplished, but he had a dim view on marriage, even chiding his peers whenever they got hitched. This is a stance we can see in this work, as the act of creating art is put on the same level as matrimonial romance. However, this would all change...

About fifteen years after this painting was created, Leighton met Dorothy Dene. She would go on to become his favorite model. He would do more sketches of her than anyone else, and she would also star his most popular paintings, including his most famous piece Flaming June.

Regardless of the strength of his infatuation, their status as a couple was never made official. However, in a letter from Italian painter Giovanni Costa to the Earl of Carlisle, Costa specifically mentions that Lord Leighton was at the Grosvenor Gallery “without his wife.” So the relationship was serious enough for folks to presume they were married. Moreover, the paintings that involve his beloved Dorothy are significantly more sensual than anything depicted in this image of a “honeymoon.”

While this painting might not be everyone's idea of a perfect honeymoon, for Leighton, art and romance were one and the same. 



  1. Davies, Lucy “Dorothy Dene: Lord Leighton's secret lover?” The Telegraph 11/19/14
  2. Staley, Edgcumbe “Lord Leighton of Stretton: P. R. A.” Charles Scribners’ Sons 1906 pg 201
  3. Web Contributor “Definition of Leighton, Frederic in English” Lexico veiwed on 11/16/2019,_frederic

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Painter's Honeymoon

The Painter's Honeymoon is a painting by Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, produced c. 1864 and currently housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


This is an interesting composition for Leighton, who usually veered towards Classical images and, in particular, favored nudes – the latter were so common in his work that many of his pictures had to be removed from the 1857 exhibition of English art that toured America, because they gave offense.

The Italian man who sat for the newly married painter occurs often in Leighton's work: he was apparently one of the artist's favorite models. Importantly, his hands are painted in fine detail, emphasizing how crucial they are to his work. The soft tones and accuracy with which Leighton painted the couple contrasts obviously with the harshness of the orange tree behind them. Leighton appears to have had difficulty in painting it – on close inspection, the oranges look as though they have been enameled. Generally, the composition and glowing color of the picture reflect the influence of such 16th-century Venetian painters as Giorgione and Titian.

The Painter's Honeymoon was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1866 – it appears that Leighton deliberately prevented it from being shown publicly in the years following its completion. As Leighton was renowned for his lack of confidence and shyness, many of his contemporaries believed he felt he had betrayed too much of his own emotion to feel comfortable exhibiting the picture.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Painter's Honeymoon.