Erotica

The Best of Leda and the Swan Paintings

Zuzanna Stańska 3 February 2017 min Read

If you ever see a painting presenting a girl with a swan – it must be Leda. Leda and the Swan is a story from Greek mythology in which the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces or rapes Leda. According to many versions of the story, Zeus did it on the same night she slept with her husband King Tyndareus. In the result of this “romance”, Leda bore Helen (yes, that Helen, the cause of the Trojan War) and Polydeuces, children of Zeus. At the same time, she was bearing Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her husband Tyndareus, the King of Sparta.

The subject was rarely seen in the large-scale sculpture of antiquity. But thanks to Ovid it was a well-known myth through the Middle Ages, and emerged more prominently as a classicizing theme, with erotic overtones, in the Italian Renaissance.

This motif also uncovers the twisted morality of the people of Renaissance who considered depicting a woman in the act of copulation with a swan as more acceptable than making love with a man .

Best of Leda and the Swan paintings

1. Ancient Mosaic

Tile mosaic depicting Leda and the Swan from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Palea Paphos, now in the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia, 3rd century AD
Tile mosaic depicting Leda and the Swan from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Palea Paphos, 3rd c. CE, Cyprus Museum, Nicosia.

2. (probably) Timotheos

Roman marble possibly reflecting a lost work by Timotheos, Leda and Zeus (as a Swan), El Prado Museum, Madrid
Roman marble possibly reflecting a lost work by Timotheos, Leda and Zeus (as a Swan), El Prado Museum, Madrid

3. Leonardo da Vinci

Cesare da Sesto After Leonardo da Vinci, Leda and the Swan 1510-1515"
Cesare da Sesto After Leonardo da Vinci, Leda and the Swan, 1510-1515.

4. Michelangelo

Cornelis Bos after Michelangelo, Leda and the Swan, first half of 16th century, British Museum
Cornelis Bos after Michelangelo, Leda and the Swan, first half of 16th century, British Museum.

5. Correggio

Correggio, Leda and the Swan, 1532. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Correggio, Leda and the Swan, 1532. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

6. Francois Boucher

Attributed to Francois Boucher, Leda and Swan, 1740, private collection

7. Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne, Leda and the Swan, 1882, Barnes Foundation.

Read also Top 5 Zeus’ Lovers and Their Crazy Stories!

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