Leda and the Swan - a Lost Leonardo da Vinci



Leda and the Swan, pen and ink and wash over black chalk on paper, 160 x 139 mm. 1503 - 1507, Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth
Leda and the Swan is another lost painting by Leonardo. We have a few sketches by his own hand and many copies of the actual painting by others. He supposedly painted or at least planned to paint two different versions.


Study for kneeling Leda, black chalk, pen and ink on paper, 126 x 109 cm. 1503 - 1507, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam



The painting is based off of the  story of the god Jupiter (Or Zeus) who transformed himself into a swan to seduce or rape Leda.  She became pregnant and had his 'children." In some versions of the myth she is with both the swan and her husband in the same night and so some of her children are from each father. Helen and Polydeuces from the swan (Zeus) and Castor and Clytemnestra from her husband Tyndareus who was the king of Sparta.  The painting shows Leda and the swan caressing and four of their children hatching.


"Leda and the Swan is a story and subject in art from Greek mythology in which the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces, or rapes, Leda. According to later Greek mythology, Leda bore Helen and Polydeuces, children of Zeus, while at the same time bearing Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her husband Tyndareus, the King of Sparta. In the W.B. Yeats version, it is subtly suggested that Clytemnestra, although being the daughter of Tyndareus, has somehow been traumatized by what the swan has done to her mother . According to many versions of the story, Zeus took the form of a swan and raped or seduced Leda on the same night she slept with her husband King Tyndareus. In some versions, she laid two eggs from which the children hatched.
 In other versions, Helen is a daughter of Nemesis, the goddess who personified the disaster that awaited those suffering from the pride of Hubris.
The subject was rarely seen in the large-scale sculpture of antiquity, although a representation of Leda in sculpture has been attributed in modern times to Timotheos (compare illustration, below left); small-scale sculptures survive showing both reclining and standing poses, in cameos and engraved gems, rings, and terracotta oil lamps. Thanks to the literary renditions of Ovid and Fulgentius it was a well-known myth through the Middle Ages, but emerged more prominently as a classicizing theme, with erotic overtones, in the Italian Renaissance." Leda and the Swan - Wikipedia
A study for Leda, c. 1505-1506, 2.8 x 1.1 cm, Royal Collection. a very small and rough sketch for Leda's pose. 



The Head of Leda, c. 1504-1506, Pen & ink over black chalk, 17.7 x 14.7 cm, Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle,  London, U.K.


 The head of Leda, c. 1505 - 1506, Pen and Ink, 9.2 x 11.2 cm, Royal Collection Trust, Windsor castle, London, U.K


Studies for the head of Leda, c. 1505 -1506,  Pen and ink over black chalk , 20 x 16.2 cm, Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle, London, U.K.


 The head of Leda, c. 1504-1506, 17.7 x 14.7 cm, Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle, London, U.K.


Detail of Leda sketch, c. 1506 - 1508, Pen & Ink, 27.9 x 20.4 cm


Diagram with a small rubbed out Leda sketch, c. 1506 - 1508, Pen & Ink, 27.9 x 20.4 cm




Studies of Leda and a Horse, black chalk, brush and ink on paper, 1503 - 1507, Royal Library, Windsor



Raphael even made a sketch of her.



Copies of Leonardo's Lost Painted version: 






Cesare da Sesto, c. 1515-1520, Oil on canvas, Wilton house, England



Francesco Melzi, Spiridon Leda, Francesco Melzi, c. 1515. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence






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