The oil-on-canvas painting, “Flaming June” of size 47x47 inch (1200 mm × 1200 mm), is created by the English artist Sir Frederic Leighton (3 December 1830 - 25 January 1896) in 1895. The art world considers this as Leighton's magnum opus.
Though art critics and historians credit the actresses Dorothy Dene and Marie Lloyd for having modeled for Flaming June, it was most likely the Dorothy Dene, whom Leighton met in her teens. On close examination, it seems some other female figures in his other works also resemble Dene.
According to art historians the Victorian artist was inspired immensely by Michelangelo’s monumental sculpture titled “Night”, which is located in the Medici Tombs in Florence, Italy. Even the pose and posture of the figure seems to have been adapted from the Night.
The painting has been thought as lost forever as it was not seen after 1930 until it was found again in 1962. It was auctioned thereafter, and soon after it was purchased by the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where it continues to belong to. It is one of the sought after attractions of the museum in Puerto Rico.
The setting for the painting is Mediterranean, with the sun brightly reflecting from the waves of the seawater. It provides the realism of natural light for the figure of the sleeping woman. The transparent clothing in flaming, intense colors and the marble setting around are typical of Leighton's style. Thanks to the light from sunset reflecting, her cheeks appear to blush, even though she is depicted as sleeping.
Though Leighton painted several single female figures in the period just before, Flaming June is outstanding from all others as regards use of rioting colors to explore beauty, imagination, emotions, sleep and dreams. Perhaps this departure from his earlier styles makes Flaming June a timeless piece of art and the most recognizable work of Frederic Leighton.
Some art historians associate a symbolism of the highly poisonous oleander plant’s branch at the top with sleep, dreams and possibly death. It may be recalled that Leighton passed away in 1896, not too distant from the time of painting Flaming June (1895).
Flaming June is one of the most reproduced paintings. The dress and posture of the female figure has been imitated for modeling for magazine covers by famous models and actresses, and it has been endlessly copied on every possible surface of consumer interest.