Leighton's Madonna comes home
One hundred and ten years after it left Leighton House, Rosselino's Madonna of the Candelabra has finally returned to its former home with the help of Art Fund.
The Relief was acquired at auction for £96,000 at Sotheby's, with a £48,000 contribution from Art Fund, and a £28,800 grant from the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund. So called because of the pair of highly decorative candelabra that frame the central figure of mother and child, the Madonna was formerly owned by Lord Leighton himself. The 15th-century terracotta relief is still in its original frame and was created by Rosselino (born Antonio Gamberelli), a leading figure of the Italian Renaissance, student of Donatello and subject of Michelangelo’s praise.
The Madonna was important enough to Leighton to be displayed in the Silk Room at Leighton House alongside a major painting by Tintoretto. It was sold at auction following Leighton’s death in 1896.
Frederic, Lord Leighton has a worldwide reputation as perhaps the foremost English painter of the late Victorian era. What is less well known is that he was an art collector of equal standing and of a range that encompassed the Italian Renaissance, medieval ceramics from Persia and Syria and early paintings, drawings and watercolours by, now well known, artists he championed as President of the Royal Academy.
The reason for this lack of recognition is that the collection was broken up for sale at auction upon Leighton’s death in 1896 to pay for legacies, endowments and other expenses.
Part of the remit of Leighton House, the museum established by friends and former colleagues of the artist at around the same time both to honour his memory and to foster appreciation of his work, is returning Leighton’s home and studio to its original condition. Consequently over the years, key pieces which were formerly part of Leighton’s collection as it adorned his home have been acquired by the Museum for display within the House in the locations selected by Leighton when he bought them.