Leighton, Cimabue and the cult of beauty

Date and time

Monday 16 January, 1–1.45pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre

Christina Bradstreet


Admission free

Frederick Lord Leighton's debut Royal Academy painting, Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence, hangs above the Gallery's main staircase. Yet this is a fascinating depiction of what is now known to be Duccio's Rucellai Madonna being received in Florence.

Leighton's painting tells us much about the Victorian cult of beauty, the 19th-century revival of interest in Early Renaissance altarpieces, and ideas about the progression of art.

In this talk, art historian Christina Bradstreet considers Leighton’s painting in the context of competing Victorian ideals about the elevating purpose of history painting and the pleasures of art for art’s sake.

Lunchtime talks

Focus in on one painting with our talks in the Gallery, or explore wider themes in the collection at our in-depth theatre talks.

Image above: Detail from Cimabue, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, about 1280–5