Invocation is one of artist Frederic Leighton's beautifully compelling images in which the focus is on a single female figure. In this painting, the spectator's eyes are drawn to the depiction of the woman who dominates the scene. She is clad in white draperies that are obviously inspired by the clothing worn by women in ancient Greek art. The woman also wears an expression of longing or pleading as she gazes up at a tiny golden figure (only the very corner of which, incidentally, is visible in the painting) on a fluted column.
At the base of the column there is a cluster of leaves and fruit. Dusky grapes cascade down the platform, their dark color complemented by the greens, golds, and russets of the lush leaves. This appealing still life can be interpreted as an offering, and the column an altar. The tiny golden statue is in fact an image of some Classical goddess, and it is to this object that the white-robed woman is paying homage. With these observations in mind, the subject of the painting becomes much more clear - the woman is in fact begging assistance from an unidentified goddess. The Classical details in the background also enhance the ancient setting.
Author and Leighton scholar Christopher Newall suggests that the woman in this work is either a dancer or singer who is looking to her Muse for inspiration. This is a perfectly plausible - not to mention charming - interpretation of the painting. Certainly, the title Invocation also reinforces this explanation. As with many of Lord Leighton's later works, however, one can enjoy the exquisite beauty of the painting without troubling too much over its exact meaning.
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.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters to the Olympian Dreamers. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Victorian art.