Antigone was a legendary heroine in Greek mythology. According to myth, she was the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. As the tragedy of Oedipus unfolds, we learn that Jocasta was in reality the mother of Oedipus, making Antigone the child of an incestuous union. With this horrible realization, Oedipus maims himself and goes into exile. His faithful daughter Antigone accompanies him, assisting her now blind father.
In this painting, Lord Leighton has represented Antigone as a tragic heroine. Using dramatic contrasts of light and dark, Leighton leads the viewer to focus on the expression on Antigone's face - she appears to be suffering from some troubled emotion, but still remains a brave and noble figure. By depicting a bust rather than a full-length view of Antigone we are forced to concentrate on the heroine exclusively and not, instead, the painting's setting.
The model for this painting was Dorothy Dene. Dene was a lovely actress who often posed for Leighton, and indeed, her features appear in a number of the artist's works, including Clytie and The Return of Persephone.
Learn more about Antigone at Mythography.
The Art of Lord Leighton
In this beautiful book, author Christopher Newall examines the life and works of eminent Victorian artist Frederic Leighton. The chapters deal with Leighton's evolution as a painter, from his early phase as "The Outsider", to success as "The President of the Royal Academy". And there are plenty of gorgeous color images to complement the text.