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Leighton struck a balance between the real and the ideal in this life-size bronze sculpture of a perfect male body. It is modern in the way it seizes on a momentary and languid pose, and yet artificial in the way the muscles are emphasised and all personal individuality suppressed. The Sluggard was made for exhibition at the Royal Academy. The fig leaf that hides the penis was a convention intended to neutralise any sexual appeal while the sculpture was on public display. Leighton made few sculptures, but like his paintings they were based on skill in drawing outlines.

February 2010