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Photograph of Dorothy Dene taken in the 1880s
Wikimedia Commons

Dorothy Dene (1859–1899) was a stage actor who featured as the model for several of Frederic LeightonEnglish painter, knighted in 1878. ‘s paintings. Born Ada Alice Pullen, she adopted her stage name in 1885, when her acting career launched in London.[1] Dorothy’s father, Abraham Pullen, a mechanical engineer, and his wife Sarah (née Eagle) had ten children; Dorothy was their second-eldest child.[2]

Emilia Barrington, who wrote the biography of the British artist Frederic Leighton and was his neighbour, introduced the artist to Dorothy during 1879 after catching sight of her going into a nearby studio and suggested he should use her as a model.[2] A story published in 1897, however, claims that Leighton spent six months searching throughout Europe for a model to match his imagined ideal of Iphigenia for his intended portrayal of Cymon and IphigeniaUndated oil on canvas painting by the English artist Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton. . It goes on to say that he saw the young actress in a theatre in London, and his search was over.[3]

Possessing a classical Greek-style beauty, Dorothy had golden wavy hair with excellent skin texture and colouration on her face; she was taller than average with graceful arms and legs together with an “exquisitely moulded bust”.[3] She appeared in several other of Leighton’s works, including Greek Girls Playing Ball and Summer Moon.[3] Lena, one of Dorothy’s younger sisters, appears in the painting as the child slave. Other paintings by Leighton featuring Dorothy are: The Bath of Psyche, Clytie, Perseus and Andromeda, Solitude, The Return of Persephone and The Vestal.[4]

Dorothy died of peritonitis in 1899. Historian Joanna Banham gives the date of death as 27 January 1899,[5] although Dorothy’s death was widely reported in newspaper accounts during December giving 27 December 1899.[6][7]