A female figure descends on a grey cloud, greeting three women before breaking into dance as they approach a temple.

In the distant background, a town nestles in a mountain landscape. The scene is mythological, but the subject is unclear – the work of an artist who valued painterly expression above narrative clarity. Known as ‘Lo Schiavone’, Andrea Meldolla was a Dalmatian who was working in Venice by the late 1530s. His versatility, ingenuity and vigorous technique made him a key figure in the development of Venetian painting. He was born into a prominent family and it is likely that he was largely self-taught as an artist, deriving particular inspiration from the work of the Mannerist painter Parmigianino, whose prints he copied extensively. Once in Venice, Schiavone helped introduce Italian Mannerist modes and motifs into Venetian circles. His fluid brushwork forced Venetian artists to re-examine the limits of painting, as painterly technique and vibrant textures replaced defined contours and clear narratives. Nymphs in a Landscape has particular significance for Leighton House Museum as it formed part of Frederic Leighton’s original collection at his house in Holland Park Road. While the panel has hung on the walls of private homes for centuries, it was probably originally painted to decorate the front of a chest: the 17th-century writers Carlo Ridolfi and Marco Boschini detailed how Schiavone painted chests for the workshop of Rocco della Carita when he was short of work. Photographs of the interiors of Leighton House taken in 1895 show the panel hanging in the Silk Room – Leighton’s final addition to the house, built shortly before his death. It hung on the fireplace wall alongside other works by 16th-century Venetian artists such as Tintoretto, Sebastiano del Piombo and Jacopo Bassano. Two of these works have been reacquired by the museum: Tintoretto’s Portrait of an Elderly Gentleman (c. 1575) was allocated to the museum in lieu of inheritance tax in 2001, and in 2006 Antonio Rossellino’s Madonna of the Candelabra was acquired with Art Fund support.


Frederic, Lord Leighton of Stretton by 1885; his deceased sale, ChristieÂ’s, 1896; Douglas Freshfield; his deceased sale, ChristieÂ’s, 1934; private collection; SothebyÂ’s, 1997 (as the property of a charitable Trust); Richard Philp; from whom purchased b

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