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Flaming June: the girl who launched a thousand fridge magnets

flaming june, lord leighton
Flaming June by Lord Leighton, 1895 (detail) Credit: Museo de Arte de Ponce
Andrew Lloyd Webber covets her, Malcolm McLaren put her on an LP cover. As ‘Flaming June’ reappears, Alastair Smart tells the story of an iconic image

It is one of Britain’s most popular works of art. Flaming June, the sun-drenched painting of a slumbering beauty in a diaphanous, orange gown, caused a sensation when it was unveiled in 1895 and ushered in a new era of commodification, when images first began to be turned into posters for the benefit of middle-class art lovers who used them to decorate their homes. 

Since then, it has become part of popular culture, gracing album covers by musicians as diverse as Malcolm McLaren and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and inspiring celebrity photo shoots, including Jessica Chastain’s on the December 2013 cover of Vogue and one of Faye Dunaway, lounging by a Beverly Hills pool the morning after winning an Oscar in 1977.

The actress Jessica Chastain channels Flaming June on the cover of Vogue, December 2013

But despite its status as...

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