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Leighton's Flaming June - Analysis of a painting

Updated on September 14, 2012

Can you imagine a ball of fire at rest? Oxymoronish, but that's what the subject of the painting is. Is this picture dynamic or static? It is obviously a subject of serenity and repose, but why is it titled that way? My answer to these is that she is a resting ball of fire, passion congealed in repose.

Detail of Face
Detail of Face
Portrait of Dorothy Dene by Leighton
Portrait of Dorothy Dene by Leighton
Solitude by Leighton
Solitude by Leighton

Dorothy Dene

Dorothy Dene, the actress, modelled for 'Flaming June.' She was his favourite, and can be seen in many of his works. She was supposed to have a classical figure, and flawless skin. You can appreciate her beauty and the artist's skill in portraying it in the pictures at the right. Click on the images to appreciate her a bit more.

The Composition of Flaming June

Back to the painting under discussion. I can see some tricks of composition used here. The lovely lady is sensousness at rest, and there is a juxtaposition of dynamic lines and restful ones. Her form is a swirling curve, with a myriad of tiny waves and curvlets swimming around. That makes her a ball of fire inspite of her restful pose. To heighten that tension, she is set against dominant horizontal lines, which contributes to stability and security of the background. Take a look; I will wait here for you.

There's another trick he has used to increase this contrast. Note the carved scrolls behind her and that pattern above? These rhythms are visual lullabies, going on and on. While she's dynamically curled in the centre!

Her foot slightly steps out of the horizontal structure, giving the illusion that she's real and can step out of the frame anytime. Go check. Please.

Burning Colours

Leighton was a master colourist. The sleeping beauty is in a bright orange, against a bluish background. More contrast! Flaming orange, simmering blue, and the blacks and browns of embers justify the title. A visual pun, indeed, of smouldering beauty!


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    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      :heart: prince among men. you can verbalize and diagnose all the beauty I can just look at and appreciate. and then to top it off, you do it so well, "go back and look, I'll still be here". <---- too cute. And I did! I didn't notice that about the foot itself giving her the illusion of possible future movement, but I certainly sensed the aliveness of her although I tend to think of her as desire personified.... temporarily and happily sated, but prepared to rise again.

      And too, so many things about the model I didn't know and I have to say now, I love "Solitude".

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      and if you could do this one: La Scapiglia... da Vinci

      and if you don't mind: Houses in Munich 1908 - Wassily Kandinsky

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 9 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      My... I never realized how much I was missing in really "looking" at art, and I love art. I also missed the foot. Kenny is giving us a gift by opening our mind, heart, soul and senses when appreciating art!

    • Yippity profile image

      Yippity 9 years ago from USA

      Oh My Gosh Kenny!

      The things I am learning here...from You!

      Thank You so very much for your insight and also for your willingness and positiveness in regards to your fellow Huber's..

      You Are Awesome!


    • S. A. Holt profile image

      S. A. Holt 9 years ago

      You made my day.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I guess no matter where you look there can be beauty.

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Wonderful comments, my dear friends and partners in Art!

      Iðunn, I am so happy that I took up your request. 

      Honestly, I learnt new things when I looked at her again! Will do the Leonardo, and the Kandinsky, surely. I promised a Caravaggio to Thoogun, so right after that. Please hang on.

      Violet, thank you for making me so proud of myself! 

      S. A. Holt, you made my day, too! Welcome!

      O Great Bee, of course, thank you.

      Thank you all, first visitors, again. 

      This fellow has not overgrown a need for appreciation! 

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      no worries, no hurries. :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks! I'm right in the middle of the supper at Emmaus!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      I look forward to it :)

    • stanskill profile image

      stanskill 9 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      I am enjoying your hubs. I noticed the foot right away, and I thought how that isn't so comfortable a pose.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai


      Ah, Stanskill, you noticed? That's right, not comfortable, but the axis for the ball of fire.

    • compu-smart profile image

      compu-smart 9 years ago from London UK

      Beautiful hub of beautiful art and facts.

      Good job kenny;)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      And beautiful comment from a great friend! Thank you, Compu-smart!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      Thank you for your fantastic tutoring on fine art. I feel that the artist truly did capture the duality of womanhood. She is a sensual flame of passion and she has all her clothes on, the package is more enticing wrapped.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      Lovely.. and educational! I like the Solitude one the best. :)

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      From the Dears in the Zoo to the Galleries of the world.

      Where will you ascend next?

      Magic hub Kenny.

      Love them all.

    • C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

      C.M. Vanderlinden 9 years ago from Metro Detroit

      Another wonderful hub. I think I'm becoming addicted to these art hubs of yours, Kenny :) I love the vibrant colors in this one---all of the contrast makes it so that the viewer can't even come close to resting while looking at it. It is absolutely captivating. Thanks for breaking it down for us!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Doghouse, you appreciate Woman and this painting beautifully! :)

      Thank you, Isabella, maybe I should do Solitude also?

      Frank, what will the comment section be without your unique comments? 

      You are the Dear of the hubbing jungle, I think.

      Colleen, be addicted, be addicted. Count on me for fixes!

      Thank you, gang, for making my day as beautiful as this painting! 

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Amazing analysis of art. A fireball at rest is an image I cannot get out of my head now. Poetry must ensue from several of us that are your readers.

      Thank you for these Hubs!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      LOL Patty, I will look forward to your poetry! If I can't be a poet, I can still be an amusing muse! Thank you!

    • WildwindE profile image

      Laurie J. Brenner 9 years ago from Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada, CA

      I love art and as an artist myself...

      Thanks for all your hubs on art and Photoshop, you are a true artist and one of such a giving spirit.

      Thank you.

      Laurie B.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Laurie. From your approving comment, I sense that you are a generous spirit, as well.

    • profile image

      Alice Verheij 4 years ago

      According to some art historians it was not Dorothy Dene but the less well known Mary Lloyd who sat for Frederic Leighton as a model for the Flaming June painting.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 4 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Alice. Yes, over the last decade that's what they're saying. :)

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