The work titled Lachrymae was painted near the end of Frederic Leighton's life, during a time when the artist created some of his most moving and personal works. Indeed, this striking image shares some of the melancholy beauty and intensity of Clytie, another painting made during this late period.
In Lachrymae, Lord Leighton has focused once again on depicting a solitary female figure. This woman stands in the center of the composition, draped in dark, Classical looking robes that hang in deep vertical folds. These folds are visually echoed by the flutes of the Doric column upon which the woman leans, and this vertical emphasis is further reinforced by the tall narrow canvas. The woman's arm leans on the column, breaking the strict verticality of the work, and her head rests against her outstretched limb. Taken together, the woman's lowered head, along with the dark draperies, suggests the sadness or anguish of someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one.
The subject of the painting is not entirely clear. Although the work evokes a mood of sadness and loss, the specific details of the story are not revealed to us. Some scholars have seen this work as a personal commentary on Leighton's increasingly poor health, or even a sort of tribute to the artist's late father. Interpretations aside, however, we can appreciate the fact that Frederic Leighton has left us with a beautiful and poignant reminder of the genius of a Victorian master.
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.