The only known head study for one of the most famous masterpieces of the nineteenth century, Frederic, Lord Leighton’s Flaming June sold to an American private collector for £167,000 at Sotheby’s in London today. The pencil and white chalk study sold for four times it pre sale low estimate (£40,000-60,000) to make an auction record for a work on paper by the artist.
Various museums possess studies for the draperies in Flaming June, for the nude figure and for the overall composition, but this unique head study was only known from an illustration in the Magazine of Art of 1895. It was rediscovered hanging on a bedroom wall at West Horsley Place, the 400-acre Surrey estate that was home to the late Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, by Sotheby’s Victorian Art specialist Simon Toll. The head study represents one of the most important surviving drawings relating to this famous painting and provides the missing link in the preparatory work for what has become known as ‘The Mona Lisa of the Southern Hemisphere’.
The sale also featured Leighton’s oil painting Catarina, another re-discovery, which sold to an UK private collector for £233,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £100,000-150,000.