London's Leighton House reopens fully refurbished Victorian-era Arab Hall

Ahram Online , Monday 17 Oct 2022

The Arab Hall reopened after an $8.9 million restoration of the Victorian era's Leighton House museum in London.

Leighton and Sambourne Museums
(Photo: Leighton and Sambourne Museums Instagram page)


The museum consists of two houses: Leighton House and Sambourne House.

As the museum’s website explains, the buildings are the "extraordinary legacies left by two ‘celebrities’ of the late Victorian era – Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896) and Edward Linley Sambourne (1844 -1910).”

The edifices are located in the Holland Park neighborhood with a history going back to the 1860s.

The Arab Hall, originally built 1877-79, is part of the refurbished new wing. It is decorated with a breathtaking work by artists and craftsman from the Middle East and North Africa.

Many of the architectural and decorative elements are inspired by those in Palermo, Granada, Istanbul, Cairo and Damascus. This includes a dome inspired by those found on mosques and shrines in Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

It also includes wooden window screens (known in Arabic as mashrabiyya), created in a Middle Eastern style.

The walls are decorated with tiles arranged according to the Arabic art of mosaic, as well as paintings such as Sun Gleam (1884) and two paintings dated 1877, At a Reading Desk and The Music Lesson.

The hall features furniture, textiles and carpets that Leighton bought on his travels in the Middle East.

The information posted on the Leighton House's website notes that, "some 19th century visitors described the Arab Hall as an exotic space from The Arabian Nights but Frederic Leighton once referred to it as ‘a little addition for the sake of something beautiful to look at once in a while,’ a light-hearted comment that emphasises that he considered the beauty and harmony of his Arab Hall to be its essential qualities."

The restoration of the Arab Hall cost $8.9 million. It reopened its doors on 15 October to visitors.

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