'The Garden of the Hesperides', 1891-2

Frederic Lord Leighton (1830 - 1896)

Accession Number LL3319

'The Garden of the Hesperides', Lord Leighton

The Hesperides were the guardians of the tree that produced golden apples, a present given by the Earth to Hera when she married Zeus. They lived in a remote but idyllic garden in the extreme west and were assisted by the dragon (or snake), Ladon, to whom here they are singing a lullaby. The long sinuous curves of the snake, of the swan’s neck and of the girls’ arms are reflected in the shape of the painting.

Flat patterns predominated, particularly in the intricate flutter of the central girl’s drapery. The result is an image of classical perfection and balance – all the more precious as soon Hercules will steal the apples and bring strife to the world. Leighton was the leading artist of the classical revival, here represented in its late, very formal, stage.

An extended study of 'The Garden of the Hesperides' is available online as part of our picture of the month series.