“… It is impossible to conceive anything more startling than the suddenness with which, emerging from a narrow and absolutely barren cleft in the rock, you see spread before your eyes and at your feet a dense mass of exuberant trees spreading for miles on to the plain which looks towards Palmyra, and, rising white in the midst of it, the Damascus of the thousand and one nights…”
– Frederic Leighton in a letter to his father, October 18, 1873
Not far from John Sandoe, tucked away on the Holland Park Road, the Leighton House Museum is a ‘private palace of art’ designed by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). It is the only purpose-built studio-house in the country that is open to the public, and it is packed to the rafters with paintings, sculpture and ephemera by Leighton and his Victorian contemporaries, including George Aitchison, William Morris, Walter Crane and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
However, the house’s greatest treasure is Leighton’s golden-domed Arab Hall. An explorer and a polymath, and fascinated with meeting points of East and West, Leighton made three extended trips to the Middle East and North Africa. During his visits to Rhodes, Cairo, and Damascus he collected ‘Saracenic’ tiles and would later send the explorer Richard Burton to barter for more Islamic tiles, lattice-work and panels, all of which went into the building of the Arab Hall. It was inspired by the 12th century Castello della Zisa in Palermo, and it might well be considered Leighton’s masterpiece.
We are delighted to be working with the Leighton House Museum, a registered charity, in providing the following list of books about or inspired by Frederic Leighton and his passion for Islamic decorative art. Leighton House will receive 10% of sales of any books in this list ordered through our website.
We are also happy to offer a finding service for out of print books on Leighton under the same arrangement.
Price and availability may be subject to revision as necessary.