King Charles III of the United Kingdom on Thursday 9 February 2023 visited the newly-renovated museum Leighton House to hear about the artistic partnership with Turquoise Mountain, the charity founded by the then Prince of Wales to preserve and develop traditional craft practices across Afghanistan, Myanmar, and the Middle East, and to drive economic development across the regions.
The King viewed a suite of specially commissioned furniture by Turquoise Mountain, which has been handmade for the museum by Syrian and Jordanian artisans based in Amman, who he met while visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2021. King Charles also heard about the intricate craftsmanship and design process behind the pieces, inspired by motifs found on a Syrian chest acquired by Lord Leighton during his travels.
In the Main Studio, the King heard about Turquoise Mountain’s ongoing work in Afghanistan and Burma, and saw a display of new work created by artisans across both regions. In particular, he heard about the ancient skill of Afghan carpet weaving, and met Turquoise Mountain’s partners who have championed the work of traditional artisans for many years.
The King viewed the first piece of contemporary artwork commissioned by Leighton House; an 11-metre high mural, located in the museum’s Helical Staircase. The piece was inspired by a poem by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, and explores the themes of unity and common humanity. The King also met the Iranian artist of the mural, Shahrzad Ghaffari, as well as members of staff at Leighton House, in the Winter Studio. He also visited the centrepiece of Leighton House, the Arab Hall, which features a renowned collection of Islamic tiles and mosaic floors.
I might well add the museum to my travel list when I ever go back to London. On photos it looks great, and I was told the museum is very interesting and that the rooms are lovely. The picture below shows the back of the house with garden in February 2023.
Leighton House is the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). He was well acquainted with members of the British royal family and he moved in the highest social circles. His father was a doctor, while his grandfather had been the primary physician to the Imperial family of Russia in St. Petersburg. He was ennobled as Baron Leighton of Stretton shortly before his death in 1896. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
In 1864 Leighton acquired the plot for the house and made plans for the construction of his studio and house on the spot. The house, as well as the interior and furniture, was designed by the architect George Aitchison (1825-1910). The construction of the house started in 1865. Soon however it was already too small for Leighton. The first extension was added 1869-1870, the Arab Hall 1877-1881, the winter studio 1889-1890 and the silk room 1894-1895.
Leighton’s collection was sold off at Christie’s after his death. The house was opened as a museum in 1900. Works by him were acquired for the museum by his neighbour and biographer Emilie Barrington, as well as by his sisters. The house is being managed by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea since 1927. Around the time a new exhibition space was added to the house, in the 1950s also a space underneath the winter studio. Restoration of the interiors took place 2008-2010, followed by the refurbishment of the 20th century additions in 2019-2022. Visitors facilities have been moved out of the historic house, so the entrance hall and the winter studio appear again as during Leighton’s lifetime.
12 Holland Park Road
Opening times: Wednesdays to Mondays 10:00am – 5:30pm.
Their website: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/museums/