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“Leda and the Swan” in 9 Famous Paintings

“Leda and the Swan” by Paul Cézanne

9 Famous Paintings of “Leda and the Swan”

Many famous painters have captured the ancient story of “Leda and the Swan” in Art:

“Leda and the Swan” by Paul Cézanne

“Leda and the Swan” by Paul Cézanne is one of his few mythological subjects in his body of work. It is also one of Cézanne’s more overtly sensual compositions.

Leda is depicted with her hip curving dramatically, and her cheeks flushed red. The Swan’s beak is wrapped around her wrist. Cézanne made at least two drawings in preparation for the painting, one of which shows the figure holding a champagne flute.

“Leda and the Swan” by Paul Cézanne

  • Title:                     Leda and the Swan
  • Artist:                   Paul Cézanne
  • Created:               1882
  • Media:                  Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:         Height: 59.8 cm (23.5″); Width: 75 cm (29.5″)
  • Type:                     Mythological Art
  • Museum:              Barnes Foundation

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“Leda and the Swan” by Jerzy Hulewicz – National Museum, Warsaw

Hulewicz Leda and the swan

“Leda and the Swan” by Jerzy Hulewicz

“Leda and the Swan” by Jerzy Hulewicz is a more modern depiction of the ancient story and subject from Greek mythology. The story tells how the ancient Greek king of gods Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces Leda. In some versions of the myth, Zeus rapes Leda and one of the children that Leda bore was a beautiful daughter who became known later as Helen of Troy.

In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is the daughter of Zeus and of Leda. Leda was the wife of the Spartan king Tyndareus. Euripides’ play of Helen, written in the late 5th century BC, provides the earliest detailed account of Helen’s birth.

Zeus, in the form of a swan, was chased by an eagle, and he sought refuge with Leda. The swan gained her affection, and the two mated. Leda then produced two eggs from which four children emerged. Helen was one of the children, who became the most beautiful woman in the ancient world and whose face launched one thousand ships.

“Leda and the Swan” by Jerzy Hulewicz

  • Title:                       Leda and the Swan
  • Artist:                     Jerzy Hulewicz
  • Created:                 1928
  • Media:                    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:           90 × 100 cm (35.4 × 39.3 ″)
  • Type:                      Mythological Art
  • Museum:               National Museum, Warsaw

~~~

“Leda and the Swan” after Michelangelo – National Gallery, London

“Leda and the Swan” after Michelangelo

This “Leda and the Swan” painting is a very old copy made after the original painting of a now-lost painting that Michelangelo made in 1530. Michelangelo showed the Greek god Zeus in the form of a swan seducing Leda, Queen of Sparta.

Leda’s pose was influenced by the iconography of older sarcophagus reliefs and gems and is similar to Michelangelo’s marble sculpture “Night” in the Medici Chapel, Florence. Michelangelo’s Leda echos a painting of a hard-edged marble relief sculpture, rather than the soft voluptuous depictions of a Raphael or Titian.

It is proposed that this copy was made from Michelangelo’s original by Rosso Fiorentino, an Italian patron of the arts. It is also believed that the original was burnt on the grounds of indecency, at the end of the seventeenth century, 

When the Duke of Northumberland presented this painting to the National Gallery in 1838, he stated that it was not suitable for public exhibition, and it did not appear in any National Gallery catalogs until 1915.

“Leda and the Swan” after Michelangelo

  • Title:                        Leda and the Swan
  • After:                       Michelangelo
  • Created:                  1530
  • Media:                     Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:            Height: 105 cm (41.3″); Width: 141 cm (55.5″)
  • Type:                        Mythological Art
  • Museum:                 National Gallery, London

~~~

“Leda and the Swan” by Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci

“Leda and the Swan” by Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci

“Leda and the Swan” by Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci depicts a nude standing Leda cuddling the Swan, with the two sets of infant twins, and their huge broken egg-shells. The original was last recorded in the French royal Château de Fontainebleau in 1625 by Cassiano dal Pozzo:

“A standing figure of Leda almost entirely naked, with the Swan at her and two eggs, from whose broken shells come forth four babies.
This work, although somewhat dry in style, is exquisitely finished, especially in the woman’s breast;
and for the rest of the landscape and the plant life are rendered with the greatest diligence.”

The story of Leda and the Swan was the subject of two compositions by Leonardo da Vinci. Neither survives as paintings by Leonardo, but there are several drawings for both his standing version and kneeling version. There are many copies of oils, especially of this second composition, where Leda is standing.

The originals are lost, probably deliberately destroyed in the 1600s because of its nudity.

“Leda and the Swan” by Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci

  • Title:                         Leda and the Swan
  • Artist:                       Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci
  • Created:                   1510
  • Media:                     oil on panel
  • Dimensions:             Height: 69.5 cm (27.3″); Width: 73.7 cm (29″)
  • Type:                        Mythological Art
  • Museum:                 Wilton House 

~~~

“Leda and the Swan” After Leonardo da Vinci, Attributed to Il Sodoma

“Leda and the Swan” After Leonardo da Vinci, Attributed to Il Sodoma

“Leda and the Swan” after Leonardo da Vinci, is attributed to Il Sodoma and depicts the mythological story of Leda and the Swan. This famous painting was for three hundred years thought to be a copy by Sodoma. Its attribution is still doubtful, but research into wills, now suggest that an unfinished version of this painting was in Leonardo’s house at the time of his death in 1519. It was inherited by one of Da Vinci’s pupils who later reworked it.

Leda, with her arms around the Swan, her elegant curving pose, her hair partially escaping from her plaits, and the river landscape, were conceived by Leonardo da Vinci but executed by different artists. X-rays techniques have revealed another composition beneath this one depicting Leda’s four children emerging from the Swan’s eggs.

“Leda and the Swan” After Leonardo da Vinci, Attributed to Il Sodoma

  • Title:                         Leda and the Swan
  • Artist:                       After Leonardo da Vinci, Attributed to Il Sodoma
  • Created:                   1510
  • Media:                      oil on wood
  • Dimensions:             Height: 112 cm (44″); Width: 86 cm (33.8″)
  • Type:                        Mythological Art
  • Museum:                 Galleria Borghese

~~~

“Leda and the Swan” by Francesco Melzi, after Leonardo da Vinci

“Leda and the Swan” by Francesco Melzi, after Leonardo da Vinci

“Leda and the Swan” by Francesco Melzi is a copy of a composition by Leonardo da Vinci and depicts the story from Greek mythology. Representations of Leda in ancient sculptures survive to show both reclining and standing poses. “Leda and the Swan” images can also be found in cameos and engraved gems, rings, and terracotta oil lamps.

Thanks to the literary renditions by Ovid and Fulgentius, it also became a well-known myth through the Middle Ages, but emerged more prominently as a classical theme, with erotic overtones, in the Italian Renaissance.

“Leda and the Swan” has also been retold in modern and contemporary art, Poetry, Literature, and Modern Media.

Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats

“A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.”

“Leda and the Swan” by Francesco Melzi, after Leonardo da Vinci

  • Title:                           Leda and the Swan
  • Artist:                         Cesare da Sesto, after Leonardo da Vinci
  • Created:                     1515
  • Media:                       oil on wood
  • Dimensions:               Height: 130 cm (51.1″); Width: 77.5 cm (30.5″)
  • Type:                          Mythological Art
  • Museum:                   Uffizi Gallery

Virtual Tour on the Art of Everything

Leda and the Swan – Greek Mythology

Yeats’s Leda and the Swan: The Power of Poetry

Understanding Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan

Animation: the ancient myth of Leda and the Swan

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“No doubt, few people understand either the purely subjective nature of the phenomenon of love or how it creates a supplementary person who is quite different from the one who bears our beloved’s name in the outside world and is mostly formed from elements within ourselves.”
– Marcel Proust

~~~


Photo Credit 1) Paul Cézanne / Public domain; After Michelangelo / Public domain; Cesare da Sesto / Public domain; After Leonardo da Vinci / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0); Jerzy Hulewicz / Public domain; Francesco Melzi / Public domain

 

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