Frederic Lord Leighton, P. R. A. (1830-1896)
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Accession number: 96.28
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1896.
Copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
"Lachrymae," the title chosen by the artist, is the Latin word for "tears." Every aspect of the composition emphasizes the subject, from the fading sunset to the cypress trees (traditional symbols of death, because once cut, they do not regenerate) and laurel bushes (like cypress, laurel is evergreen and, thus, a symbol of immortality). The overall Hellenic theme of the canvas reflects contemporary Victorian interest in Greek funerary art.
Leighton was already suffering from what would prove to be fatal heart disease when he painted this melancholy work. He was at the height of his fame, having served as president of the Royal Academy for more than fifteen years. As he did with several of his other pictures, Leighton selected the frame; in this case, one that creates the impression of viewing the scene through a doorway (see link just below; click on both images to enlarge them). — George P. Landow and Jacqueline Banerjee