Thursday, March 22, 2012

Leda and the Swan

Leda is one of Zeus's many conquests (or victims depending on how you look at it). He seduced her in the form of a swan. As a result Leda laid two eggs containing her four children: Castor and Clytemnestra to her husband, Tyndareus, and Pollux and Helen to Zeus, King of the Gods. All of Leda's children go on to have stories of their own, Helen is indeed the face that launched a thousand ships bringing about the Trojan War, Clytemnestra murdered her husband and in turn is murdered by her son Orestes, and Castor and Pollux were Argonauts and involved in many adventures. But these are all stories for another time.

"My own fatherland, Sparta, is not without fame, and my father is Tyndareus; but there is indeed a story that Zeus flew to my mother Leda, taking the form of a bird, a swan, which accomplished the deceitful union, fleeing the pursuit of an eagle, if this story is true." (Euripides, Helen, 1.17-20)

Leda by Alfredo Sabat, 2007

Leda and the Swan by Cesare de Sesto, 1510-1515 after a painting by Leonardo da Vinci
 I've included this image in my Birds post but thought it would be a shame to omit it from this one.

Leda and the Swan by Alexandre Voronkov, 1997

Leda and the Swan by David Jermann, 1997

Leda by Gustav-Adolf Mossa, 1906

Leda by Norman Lindsay, 1995

"Leda, meekly reclining under the wings of a swan." (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 6.109)

Leda with the Swan by Correggio, 1531-1532

Leda con Cisne by Giovanni Boldini, 1860

Leda and the Swan by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto

Leda and the Swan by Jerzy Hulewicz, 1928

Leda and the Swan, 16th Century
 A copy of a lost Michelangelo painting.

Leda and the Swan by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1598-1600
 And here's a version by Rubens.

Leda and the Swan by Paul Cézanne, c. 1820-1822

"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.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A sudden shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

                                Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?"

                                                (W.B. Yeats, 'Leda and the Swan', Collected Poems, 1994)

Leda and the Swan by François Boucher, 1741

Leda and the Swan by Giovanni Boldini, 2010

Leda and the Swan by Paul Prosper Tillier

Leda Atomica by Salvador Dali, 1949

Leda and the Swan by Lelio Orsi

Leda and the Swan by Gustave Moreau, 1865-1875

 The story of Leda's children does vary from what I wrote above, in some cases it is a single egg, and the combination of which children are born from in changes amongst sources as well.

Leda with the Swan and Her Children by Vincent Sellaer

Leda and the Swan by Jacopo Pontormo, 1512-1513

Leda by Giampietrino, 1530

 There were just so many pictures of Leda that I had to stop or my computer may have passed out. If you want to check out more images concerning  Leda, then I'd recommend Júpiter y leda which has an extensive collection laid out in chronological order.


  1. Hi,
    it is 'François Boucher' and not 'François Bouche'.
    Nice compilation :)
    Maybe you could find some another here :

  2. Thank you for the typo tip, all fixed.
    And thanks for the link too :), it's a great blog.



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