Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (British, 18301896)
Study for The Syracusan Bride Leading Wild Beasts in Procession to the Temple of Diana, ca. 1865–66
Oil on panel, 5 1/4 x 16 1/2 in.

Among the grandest of Leighton’s works are four processional pictures: monumental, frieze-like compositions that revolve around a single central figure. Three of these paintings which are represented in the Dahesh Collection take their subjects from ancient Greek sources. The Syracusan Bride (1865–66, private collection) is derived from the second Idyll of Theocritus, while Homer’s Iliad inspired Captive Andromache (ca. 1886–88, Manchester Art Gallery). Yet Leighton did not adhere to the main narratives, preferring to select his themes from peripheral incidents.

The Syracusan Bride represents a briefly mentioned procession of wild animals and young women to the grove of Diana. The luxuriant brushwork of this exquisite, semi-abstract oil sketch is a far cry from the careful finish of the final painting, yet this sketch was a crucial step in Leighton’s working procedure, and would have been created only after a painting’s entire composition had been worked out in many detailed scale drawings.