Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dash Revealed


I have had lots of comments regarding the picture that goes along with my moniker, so I thought I would tell you about her.......drum-roll............. it's not me!

It is a portrait called 'Pavonia' painted in 1858 by my favourite painter, The English classical artist Lord Frederic Leighton.

The lady who sat for the portrait was Italian model Nanna (Anna) Risi;

  In 1858 Leighton settled in Rome, where he met the striking Italian beauty Nanna Risi.  Nanna was a cobblers wife but as a result of her sensual and classical beauty she became a much sought after model amongst the growing number of expatriate artists.

Leighton painted four studies of her which went on show at the Royal Academy in London in 1859, although Leighton managed to capture her mysterious seductive quality his relationship with her was purely platonic, always professional Leighton even made a point of writing home and described Risi as a 'handsome woman' and pointed out that his studies of her were all dressed.  Leighton who was known for painting his models as mythical or historical characters, always painted Risi as 'herself'.

 A Roman Lady (La Nanna)

  An Italian Lady

 In 1860 Nanna Risi then met and posed for the German artist Anselm Feuerbach. Feuerbach fell passionately in love with the Italian beauty. The feeling was mutual, and Nanna left her husband and child to be with him.  During their time together Feuerbach painted her at least twenty times.

 Risi painted by Feuerbach

Feuerbach was extremely possessive and in 1865 Risi left him for another lover, this relationship did not work out, she tried to return to Feuerbach but he would not take her back. some time later he saw her in the street in severely reduced circumstances, he merely waved at her from a distance. 

I first came across a print of 'Pavonia' many years ago in an art shop in Paris, I fell in love with it, MG bought it, had it framed and she is now gracing our staircase wall.

Lord Frederic Leighton has painted many beautiful works, some of which you may be familiar with;

 Flaming June

 The Painters Honeymoon

Music Lesson

The Countess Brownlow

Light Of The Harem

Courtyard of a Mosque at Broussa

Self Portrait

All images of Frederic Leighton's works by kind courtesy of http://www.frederic-leighton.org/
To find out more about Lord Frederic Leighton (His biography is fascinating) or to view more of his works, please visit the link above.


  1. It's a beautiful portrait and it very much suits you and your blog.

    Risi was a fantastically striking woman. Her personal story is so tragic - I wonder what happened to her in the end?

    Ali x

  2. Funny I always thought it was you :) .. seriously lovely post I love to learn about art and who the muses were.
    I have always loved the portrait Flaming June, I am sure I have used it in a past blog xx

  3. Oh that was so interesting to read and very poignant and sad too in a way... I know she left her husband but....! Such wonderful paintings - thank you for all the fascinating snippets you bring us Dash!

  4. What a stunning woman she was - and it almost makes up for my disappointment at not finding a photo of you revealed to us

  5. What a beautiful way to start the day,thank you.

  6. Is it just my imagination or do you too see that when he does 'society' portraits the ladies are upright while in his 'nameless' studies the women are all soft curves?

  7. How beautiful she was Dash. There are several of these Leighton paintings I had never seen, thank you. I think you made the right choice for your profile picture, there is a particularly dreamy and romantic mood to that portrait.

  8. What a beautiful creature! No wonder the aesthetes loved her. And, I find her end so typical of the most beautiful women, and so sad. Thanks for this.

  9. Didn't they wear a lot of material in those days? Must have weighed a ton!

    You've chosen a beautiful moniker, Dash.

  10. I love Leighton's pictures and knew the painting but knew nothing about the model. Very interesting! It's a beautiful painting. I thought you were going to put a picture of yourself at the end! xx

  11. Beautiful, everything you do is beautiful.

    Thank you for as James so aptly put it, helping me start (mid-way through actually) my day off with such joy.

  12. how fascinating and what very beautiful pictures....

  13. What beautiful paintings, and how lovely to hear the history behind this one albeit a little sad xxx

  14. Oh, I've always wondered about the story behind your picture. What a beautiful woman.

  15. I saw many of Leighton's works in London some years ago. He has always been a favourite of mine and I felt incredibly lucky to have seen this exhibit. But the icing on the cake was visiting his house in Holland Park a couple of years ago. Just amazing!

  16. You suit each other. Good choice for your doppleganger.

  17. She was a truly beautiful woman. It is interesting that despite the passage of time, and how changeable what we consider beautiful, her appeal is timeless.

  18. Oh dear Dash, fascinating story, but I am dying to see a photo of you. Please? Soon?

  19. I've always thought your thumbnail image to be the most beautiful in bloggy world..so glad to know its origins now. I had the Flaming June print when I was much younger but goodness knows what happened to it after 24 moves!

  20. Oh my dear, aren't you one of the most priviledged society women to be painted by Fredric Leighton for your profile picture? ;)

  21. Dear Dash, what a wonderful post, thank you so much for telling all about this, I always wondered where your lovely image came from, i had heard of Leighton (used to live near Holland Park) but never of Pavonia, fascinating. Spookily, I have just posted about Pym's "Excellent Women" , I just finished reading it and have the same edition as you! the blogosphere is a strange, wonderful place! Best wishes Blighty

  22. Not only do I love the story and paintings of this woman, but I love that we get to see the full work that you use as your avatar on here.

    She was breathtaking! No wonder so many wanted to use her as their subject. Flaming June is one of my favorite works of art and I had no idea its name or who painted it until now. Thanks so much for this post!

  23. Beautiful! And I love how the same picture as your profile is hanging in your hall :-)

  24. Lovely post, so glad you chose to retain the air of mystery that surrounds you.
    I suppose we will never know what happened to Nana Risi but I did have a neighbor named Flaming June who achieved mild notoriety as a drag act here in NYC before he moved back to the midwest.
    I lived for years directly above Wallace Shawn until the success of My Dinner with Andre sent him packing.
    Sigh, I remain.
    X David

  25. Simply gorgeous paintings Dash.. and I do believe I like that first one best.... thanks for sharing all this beauty with us.. it's still raining and raining here so this beauty goes a long way in brightening things up.. xxx Julie


  27. fantastic history and gorgeous art.
    thank you so much

  28. I wish I were artistic! Light of the Harem is beautiful...I've not seen it before.

  29. Wow, I recognized many of those paintings, among them Flaming June is one of my favourites! I just didn't know the artist offhand, but now I do. The painting you have as your profile pic is very striking indeed, which is why I had to know more about it! So, do you look like her? ;) Thank you also for following my blog! I'm just starting out and struggling to get followers. Plus I love your blog so it is indeed an honour!


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