"So Noble a Failure is Better than a Trifling Success”: Frederic Leighton’s Reconciliation of the Montagues and the Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet (1855) Open Access

Norwalk, Jenifer (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/qv33rw655?locale=en


In 1855, Frederic Leighton completed two paintings while studying in Rome: Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence and The Reconciliation of the Montagues and the Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet. At the time, Leighton was a young, unknown artist, and he hoped that these two works would launch his career. As it were, Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna brought Leighton near instant recognition and renown: that painting was purchased by Queen Victoria and has remained a prized part of the Royal Collection ever since. In contrast, The Reconciliation—which Leighton considered the better picture—faded into obscurity after it was purchased by an American private collector in 1858. As a result of its more successful opening exhibition and positive critical reception, Cimabue’s Madonna has been frequently studied, while The Reconciliation is seldom discussed in art-historical literature. This thesis aims to address the paucity of scholarship on The Reconciliation, providing a comprehensive account of the painting’s provenance, context, and place in Leighton’s oeuvre.

Table of Contents

Introduction. . . .1

A Brief Biography. . . .3

Dueling Canvases. . . .5

Leighton in a Pre-Raphaelite Context. . . .17

History. . . .25

Conclusion. . . .38

Bibliography. . . .41

Figures. . . .44

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