Lord Leighton, P.R.A. 1830 - 1896
Sketch model for group of figure in the painting 'The Garden of Hesperides'
Photo: R.A./Paul Highnam
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Sketch model for group of figure in the painting 'The Garden of Hesperides', 1892
Bronze, 180 X 350 X 210 mm
Made in-house Royal Academy of Arts (London), ca.1896
03/2750
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This bronze was cast from a plaster model presented to the Royal Academy by Mrs Orr & Mrs Matthews, the artist's sisters in 1896. Leighton made the plaster as a study for his painting ‘The Garden of the Hesperides’ (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool), which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892.

The sculpture depicts the three daughters of Hesperus, known as the Hesperides. According to Greek legend they lived in a secluded garden where with a dragon, named Ladon and guarded a Golden Apple Tree. Leighton depicts the maidens resting languorously by the tree, the central figure entwined in the dragon’s coils. According to contemporary sources, Leighton found inspiration in the following lines from Milton's Comus:

“All amid the Gardens fair
Of Hesperus and his daughters three
That sing about the golden tree.”

In an interview in The Studio (1893, p. 7) Leighton explained the role that his small sculptural studies played in the composition of his paintings:

‘these models are clad with real drapery wetted to increase the effect of its fineness in proportion to the small scale of the folds” and are made only for the sake of ten minutes drawings, the serious study of the drapery being made from the living model or the lay figure. They help also to facilitate the disposition of the grouping, but are done with as soon as the cartoon is ready for tracing.’