Flaming June by
Frederic Leighton oil on canvas
120 cm × 120 cm (47 in × 47 in)
Dorothy Dene in the 1880s,
thought to be the model for Flaming June,
and possibly the artist's lover.
The painting has been used extensively in modern graphics, reproductions, posters, record covers, etc. and was once copied using a Vogue model for the front cover of the magazine. It is greatly appreciated by art fans worldwide and represents perfectly the Victorian obsession with classical Greek sculpture.
On close inspection, it strikes a rather voyeuristic scene with the viewer taking power to gaze as our lady sleeps. She blushes, why, we cannot be sure. Is she stirring, about to wake, just asleep or is she flushed from erotic flurry? We will never know but the artist does not portray that rosy complexion by accident. We are compelled to look closer, it draws us in, a sleeping seductress on fire with desire.
The arms and hand positioning are slightly awkward (sketches from the artist's studio show several reworkings) and positioned to frame the nymphlike face of our sleeping beauty. And yet there is no real awkwardness in the pose and the painting still holds a sense of realism. The marble-like skin, a nod to those Michaelangelo sculptures that the Victorians were obsessed with, contrasts effortlessly with the fire orange chiffon. The cloth is both like flame and water, at once rippling and flickering, how is this possible? As in all great paintings, this is a surprise and it touches our senses in unexpected ways. Hard and soft surfaces, fluid and rigid lines, flushed and pale flesh, why it is too much surely for the onlooker? But wait, is that a, surely not, yes it is dear art lover, her ariola on full view!