Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Leighton, Room 107

The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace

Spirit Fresco
1886 (Made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Museum was founded to promote the ‘industrial arts’ – designed and manufactured objects – by displaying the finest historical and contemporary examples. Leading Victorian artist Frederic Leighton was commissioned to paint two frescos on the theme for the South Court, a vast two-story glass roofed gallery which was then the centrepiece of the Museum. This is the second of two frescos completed by Leighton. The first was 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to War' (Museum no. SKM.19). Neither fresco tells a specific story, but both depict the importance of the industrial arts by showing their use during times of war and peace. In 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace' Leighton represents the trade of the industrial arts in an ancient Greek setting. Fashionable Athenian women try on jewellery, while a group of men unload a rolled carpet from a boat just come ashore and another group examine pots and other ceramics.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Spirit fresco
Brief Description
Spirit Fresco, 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace', by Frederic Leighton, 1886
Physical Description
Spirit fresco
Dimensions
  • Height: 4876.8mm
  • Width: 10668.0mm
Styles
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace 1884-1886 Leighton used an experimental technique to paint this fresco. Instead of the customary rough plaster ground, which he likened to ‘painting on a gravel walk’, Leighton used a smoother ground. Unfortunately, this prevented the paint from fusing with the plaster with the result that the fresco began to deteriorate rapidly. The preparatory oil sketch and monochrome cartoon, displayed in this corridor, show how it looked originally. [66] Spirit Fresco Commissioned for the decoration of the South Kensington Museum Museum no. SKM.20 (27/04/2016)
Credit line
Commissioned by the South Kensington Museum

Object history
Commissioned by the directors of the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1868. Completed in 1886
Historical context
Historical significance: Frederic Leighton was born in Scarborough in 1830, but his family travelled extensively in Europe during his childhood. After receiving an all round education, he studied art at Frankfurt under Steinle, and at Brussels, Paris and Rome. In 1852 he began to work independently and spent the next three years in Rome.



Leighton's painting Cimabue's Madonna carried through Florence (1853-55) was his first major work, and an immediate success. When it was shown at the Royal Academy in 1855, it was bought by Queen Victoria.



Leighton settled in London in 1859, though he frequently travelled abroad. His cosmopolitan knowledge of languages, literature and music marked him out as an exceptional figure in Victorian London, and he rose rapidly through the art establishment. He was elected ARA in 1864 and RA in 1868, and attained the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1878. He was the most influential of the Victorian Classical painters, and an important exponent of the 'subjectless' painting associated with the Aesthetic Movement, in which pictorial narrative is suppressed in favour of beauty and atmosphere. Leighton died on 25 January 1896 and is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.



In the 1870s and 1880s Leighton was commissioned by the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known) to paint two large lunette paintings for each end of the South Court of the museum. The Arts of Industry as applied to War was painted between 1878 and 1880, and The Arts of Industry as applied to Peace was painted between 1884 and 1886. The complex story of the commission is told in Richard Ormond's book Leighton's Frescoes in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, the full text of which is included here in the bibliographic field.

Place Depicted
Associations
Summary
The Museum was founded to promote the ‘industrial arts’ – designed and manufactured objects – by displaying the finest historical and contemporary examples. Leading Victorian artist Frederic Leighton was commissioned to paint two frescos on the theme for the South Court, a vast two-story glass roofed gallery which was then the centrepiece of the Museum. This is the second of two frescos completed by Leighton. The first was 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to War' (Museum no. SKM.19). Neither fresco tells a specific story, but both depict the importance of the industrial arts by showing their use during times of war and peace. In 'The Arts of Industry as Applied to Peace' Leighton represents the trade of the industrial arts in an ancient Greek setting. Fashionable Athenian women try on jewellery, while a group of men unload a rolled carpet from a boat just come ashore and another group examine pots and other ceramics.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Richard Ormond, Leighton's Frescoes in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975 This is a full-text transcription of the book:
  • Tim Barringer, 'The Leighton Gallery at the V&A: The context, conservation and rediplay of the South Kensington frescoes'; Apollo, February 1996, vol. CXLIII, no. 408, pp.56-64.
  • Stephen Rickerby, 'Conservation of Lord Leighton's Spirit Frescoes "War" and "Peace"'; V&A Conservation Journal, Autumn 1995, Issue 17
Collection
Accession Number
SKM.20

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record createdFebruary 9, 2016
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