A Middle-East-Inspired Jewel in the Heart of London
Location: Leighton House Museum
Address: 12 Holland Park Rd, Kensington, London W14 8LZ
“The home reflected his artistic joy. Every stone was subject to his loving care.” Leighton’s sisters wrote these words on January 26, 1989 in a letter to the Times. In fact, from the time it was purchased in 1864, the home at number 12 Holland Park Road became, for Frederic Leighton, the refined temple of his reserved and solitary life. The work on the home, begun in 1865, was entrusted to architect George Aitchison. Initially, both inside and out, the home appeared simple and subdued. However, three years after the completion of the building, Leighton undertook a long series of additions that would continue almost right up to his death. The style reflects his fascinating journeys to Turkey, Egypt and Syria where the painter selected fabrics, tiling and other refined objects for his home. The remarkable tiles that flank the walls of the Arab Hall, built in 1877, come all the way from Damascus, for instance. In creating the interior, he used the Zisa Castle as a model, the Norman construction in Palermo from the XII Century. This ambitious project engaged draftsmen, potters, sculptors and illustrators as well as remarkable mosaicists. Perhaps the most notable accomplishment is the Silk Room which was conceived, with its stunning green-silk covered walls, as a gallery for paintings by various artists, such as Albert Moore, George Frederic Watts, John Singer Sargent and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.