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Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

In line with decisions made by the National Cabinet as communicated by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is currently closed but will reopen to the public on 1 June. The Gallery will be observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the State. More information




Western art

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Winding the skein

circa 1878


Lord Frederic Leighton


03 Dec 1830 - 25 Jan 1896



circa 1878

Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


100.3 x 161.3 cm stretcher; 136.5 x 197.5 x 10.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1974

Accession number


Artist information

Lord Frederic Leighton

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history


F.H. Woodroffe, sold Christie's London, 24 March 1906, anonymous sale 'Property of a gentleman' lot no. 111

Pirie, purchased Christie's London, 24 March 1906, anonymous sale 'Property of a gentleman' lot no. 111

John Avery, dates unknown, after Pirie and before J.S. Maas & Co

The Maas Gallery, London, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from J.S. Maas & Co 1974

Referenced in 61 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2009–10, Sydney, 2010, p 84.

Russell Ash, Lord Leighton, London, 1995, col illus pl 20.

Mrs Russell Barrington, Leighton, London, 1906, vol 2, pp 201, 211–12, 368, 370, 387, illus vol 1 after p 214.

Richard Beresford, Pre-Raphaelites and Olympians. Selected works of Victorian art from the John and Julie Schaeffer and the Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 2001, unnumbered, p 38, col illus p 38.

Henry Blackburn (Editor), Academy notes with 150 illustrations, 120 being facsimiles of sketches by the artists, 'Gallery III', London, 1878, p 34, no 302, illus with sketch p 34.

Andrew Bolton Marvick, The art of John William Waterhouse: eclecticism in late nineteenth-century painting, New York, 1994, pp 175–76. PhD, Columbia University.

Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'European art in the old courts', Sydney, 1984, p 16.

Pietro Citati, La pensee chatoyante: Ulysse et l'Odyssée, 2006, illus.

Alice Corkran, Frederick Leighton, London, 1904, pp 98, 201.

Jackie de Diana, Look, ‘Realism to surrealism: the Society’s art appreciation lecture series for 2104’, Sydney, Nov 2013, pp 28–29: illus pp 28–29.

Richard Dorment, Victorian High Renaissance, Manchester, 1978, p 116, no 53, illus p 116.

Renée Free and Peter Laverty, Victorian Olympians, Sydney, 1975, pp 6, 18, no 16, col illus p 44.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', Sydney, 1988, p 42.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, p 112, illus p 113.

Algernon Graves, A century of loan exhibitions, 1813–1912, London, 1913-1915, vol 2, 1913, p 674.

Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts: a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904, London, 1905-1906, vol 5, 1906, p 32.

George R Halkett, The Walker Art Gallery notes, Liverpool, 1878, p 42, no 164, illus p 41 (sketch).

Terry Ingram, Australian Financial Review, ‘Fine Leighton for NSW gallery’, Sydney, 14 Feb 1974, illus p 29.

Henry James, Nation, ‘The Royal Academy’, 06 Jun 1878.

R. Jenkyns, The Victorians and ancient Greece, Oxford, 1980, pp 307–08.

Richard Jenkyns, Dignity and decadence: Victorian art and the classical inheritance, London, 1991, p 203.

Stephen Jones, Christopher Newall, Leonée Ormond, Richard J. Ormond and Benedict Read, Frederic, Lord Leighton: eminent Victorian artist, London, 1996, p 179.

Joseph A Kestner, Mythology and misogyny, Wisconsin, 1989, p 162.

Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, p 123, no 1323, col illus p 17.

Leonée Ormond and Richard J. Ormond, Lord Leighton, New Haven, 1975, pp 90–91, 128, 133, 164, no 249, pl 123.

Leonée Ormond and Richard Ormond, Apollo, 'Leighton in Paris', London, 1973, pp 136–41: p 138, illus fig 4.

Emilia F S Pattison, Modern artists: a series of illustrated biographies, ‘Sir Fredrick Leighton’, London, 1882, p 16, illus p 5 (sketch).

Ernest Rhys, Frederic, Lord Leighton, late President of the Royal Academy of Arts: an illustrated record of his life and his work, London, 1898, pp 29, 74, 87, illus opp p 30 (photogravure).

Ernest Rhys, Sir Frederic Leighton, Bart, PRA ..: an illustrated chronicle, London, 1895, pp 22, 69, illus opp p 56 (photogravure).

M H Spielmann, Magazine of Art, ‘The late Lord Leighton, PRA, DCL, LLD’, London, 1896, pp 197–216: p 207.

Edgcumbe Staley, Lord Leighton of Stretton, PRA, London, 1906, pp 112, 240.

Andrew Stephenson, Frederic Leighton: antiquity, renaissance, modernity, ‘Leighton and the shifting repertoires of “masculine” artistic identity in the late Victorian period’, London, 1999, pp 236, 245, col illus pl x.

John L Sweeney (Editor), The painter’s eye: notes and essays on the pictorial arts by Henry James, London, 1956, p 168. (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1989, p 168, note 17).

Hiroyuki Tanita, Frederic Lord Leighton, Tokyo, 1995, p 46, no 21, col illus p 47.

Daniel Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual, 'Recent Acquisitions', Sydney, 1974-1975, p 2, illus fig 1.

Angus Trumble (Curator), Love and Death: art in the age of Queen Victoria, Adelaide, 2001-2002, p 196, col illus p 197.

Brook Turner, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Leighton goes home’, Sydney, 07 Feb 1996, p 17.

H Schütz Wilson, Magazine of Art, ‘Our living artists: Frederick Leighton, RA’, London, 1878, pp 57–62, p 59.

Christopher Wood, Olympian dreamers: Victorian classical painters 1860–1914, London, 1983, pp 54, 64, illus pp 54–55, fig 10.

Catalogue of the reproductions of the late Lord Leighton’s pictures, London, [1896], illus p [9] (photogravure).

Athenaeum, ‘The Royal Academy – winter exhibition: Lord Leighton’s pictures (third and concluding notice)’, London, 20 Feb 1897, pp 252–53: p 253.

Art Journal, ‘Lord Leighton’s pictures: the Royal Academy winter exhibition, 1897’, London, 1897, pp 58–60: p 60.

Catalogue of important modern pictures and water colour drawings the property of a gentleman …, London, 24 Mar 1906, p 19, no 111.

Report of the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales: report covering the period January–December, 1973, Sydney, 1974, pp 4, 5.

Report of the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales: report covering the period January–December, 1974, Sydney, 1975, p 5.

Report of the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales: report covering the period January–December, 1978, Sydney, 1980, p 13. Loan.

Olympian dreamers, an exhibition of Victorian classical paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints, to celebrate the publication of Christopher Wood’s ‘Olympian Dreamers’ by Constable in October 1983, London, 1983, under no 7.

Magazine of Art, ‘The Royal Academy – first notice’, London, 1878, pp 40–45: p 43.

Victorian pictures, drawings and watercolours..., London, 01 Nov 1990-02 Nov 1990, p 183, under no 287.

Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 1991, Sydney, 1991, p 24, col illus p 87.

Magazine of Art, ‘Notices of books’, London, 1878, p xxxii.

Builder, ‘The Royal Academy Exhibition’, London, 11 May 1878, pp 473–75: pp 473–74.

Illustrated London News, ‘Royal Academy exhibition’, London, 04 May 1878, p 410.

The exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts... the one hundred and tenth, London, 1878, p 17, no 302.

Liverpool autumn exhibition of modern pictures... the eighth, Liverpool, 1878, p 14, no 164.

Art Journal, 'The Royal Academy Exhibition', London, Jul 1878, pp 145–48: p 147.

Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2002, Sydney, 2002, p 69. Loan.

Athenaeum, 'The Royal Academy', London, 04 May 1878, p 576.

Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2012–13, Sydney, 2013, p 67.

Times, 'Exhibition of the Royal Academy', London, 04 May 1878, p 12.

Victorian paintings, drawings, and watercolours, London, 1972, p [2], no 13, col illus on cover.