Leighton House Museum review
The Leighton House Museum is the architectural equivalent of opening up a brown paper bag and finding a diamond inside. This guy was an artist, and he lived inside a work of art.
Don't be put off by the photo of the front. This house will never win any awards for the outside. It's not until you get beyond the entrance hall that you'll understand what all the fuss is about. The kind of words that sprang to mind when I first entered the rooms were Sultan's palace, Turkish bath and Arabian nights. What do those three phrases conjure up for you?
Downstairs is decorated with those oily-looking lapis lazuli blue tiles that shimmer like a nighttime rainbow. It's all mustard yellows and Persian carpets. There are bronze nudes and peacock feathers, and marble columns carved from a muddy coloured storm. Everything is dim and dark and lined in gold. The only sound that you can hear is the tinkling drip from an indoor fountain.
I've got to admit that I'd never heard of Frederic Leighton before I visited his house, but it turns out that he was a very famous Victorian painter -- good enough to be ennobled and buried at St. Paul's. There aren't very many of his pieces inside, though, because they all got sold off after he passed away. It's quite a sad story actually, and highlights the pitiful way we treat old architecture. The interior was allowed to die a death before the Germans nearly finished it off by dropping a bomb on one end, and practically everything you see today was recreated from photos. But it's been so well done that you'd never guess.
Unfortunately the upstairs rooms pale in comparison. Apart from some fairly interesting artwork on the walls, the decorations don't come close to replicating what came before. I'm guessing that they ran out of money halfway through the rebuild, because its obvious that the decorators decided that less is more. Downstairs it's the total opposite: more is more. Downstairs is like looking at money. Upstairs is like looking at savings. But I'd happily pay the entrance fee just to see those few rooms at the start.
The downstairs is truly unique, and well worth a visit.
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