Frederic Lord Leighton
Signed Fred Leighton
Inscribed The Sluggard
Stamped Founded by J. W. Singer & Sons Frome Somerset and Published by Arthur Leslie Collie 39 Old Bond Street London May 1st 1890
Bronze with dark and light brown patination
Height: 21" (53.5 cm)
Conceived in 1886 and cast before 1906
Turning to sculpture late in his career, Frederic Leighton is considered to be the father of New School sculpture, in particular for his Athlete wrestling with a Python of 1877 and The Sluggard. The Sluggard is well-known and celebrated, and casts are in a number of prominent museum collections including Tate Gallery (London), the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), Royal Academy of Arts (London), and the Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts (Minneapolis, USA).
The inspiration for the Sluggard came from Leighton’s life-drawing model Gaetano Valona stretching during a break between poses. The work was originally called Athlete Awakening from Sleeping, and was first executed in 1882. Leighton struck a balance between the real and the ideal in this life-size bronze sculpture of a perfect male body. Earlier models include a fig leaf which was a convention intended to neutralise any sexual appeal while the sculpture was on public display.
This bronze is a sketch for the finished work and one of an edition cast by Singer and Sons of Frome, Somerset. It is the version that was produced for the collectors’ market, a reduced version of the finished work never being cast. Singer and Sons set up their new foundry capable of casting using the lost wax and sand casting processes in 1888. Rights to market the model from 1890 were bought by Arthur Leslie Collie who sold these and other New School sculpture from his joint premises with Agnew’s in Old Bond Street. A bronze cast which bore his name and that of the founder Singer and Sons was exhibited at the Arts and Crafts exhibition of 1890. By 1901 Collie was no longer associated with Agnew’s and by 1906 he was no longer listed in the art directory. Casts made under Collie’s name can be accurately dated to this period.
Plaster cast of the Sluggard at the celebrated Cult of Beauty exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum