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Arts & Culture


Leighton House Museum: a piece of the 19th-Century Middle East in London

The Arab Hall, influenced by Leighton’s travels in the Middle East, features a collection of tiles and other artifacts from the region, with a blend of English and Middle Eastern aesthetics.

The Leighton House Museum in London’s Holland Park area stands as a representation of Victorian-era artistry infused with Middle Eastern architectural elements. Commissioned by the distinguished Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), the house was designed and built with the assistance of architect George Aitchison, showcasing a blend of English and Middle Eastern architectural aesthetics​.


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One of the most remarkable features of the Leighton House is the Arab Hall, which was constructed between 1877 and 1881. This part of the museum is home to an extensive collection of tiles mostly sourced from Damascus, dating from the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century The design of the Arab Hall was significantly influenced by the interior of the 12th-century Siculo-Norman palace, La Zisa, located in Palermo, Sicily, which itself incorporated elements of Arab-Islamic architecture.


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Bringing the Orient to a Western capital

The Arab Hall’s construction was not merely a whimsical architectural endeavor but a well-calculated project following Leighton’s travels to the Middle East, including visits to Turkey in 1867, Egypt in 1868, and Syria in 1873, during which he collected textiles, pottery, and other objects that were later displayed in his house. His trip to Damascus in 1873 laid the foundations for the collection of tiles that adorn the walls of the Arab Hall. Further examples were procured for Leighton by others, including the explorer and diplomat, Sir Richard Burton. Various contemporaries of Leighton and Aitchison, including potter William De Morgan, artworker Walter Crane, sculptor Edgar Boehm, and artist and illustrator Randolph Caldecott, contributed to the project. 

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Published on 27 October 2023

#Arab world