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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Archive : Roman Bronze Applique of Leda and the Swan
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Roman Bronze Applique of Leda and the Swan - X.0107
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 1 st Century AD
Dimensions: 5.25" (13.3cm) high
Collection: Classical
Style: Roman
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: SOLD. Art Logic-Sotheby's (New York) 2003

Location: Great Britain
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The fantastical tales of Classical mythology detail a great number of unusual amorous couplings. Zeus, king of the gods, was known to often change his form in order to satisfy his physical desires while averting his wife’s suspicion. So the stories are told of Zeus turning into a bull, an eagle, or even something as abstract as a shower of gold in order to attain the objects of his desire. But perhaps no metamorphosis is quite as endearing as the legend of Leda and the Swan, a myth that has proved perfect fodder for painters, sculptors, and poets both in antiquity and again in the Renaissance and afterwards.

Leda was the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, and the mother to many noble children, including the famous beauty Helen, the heroine Clytemnestra, and the twins Castor and Polydeuces. However, while Helen was the mother of all these children, her husband was not the father of all. Enter Zeus. One day while bathing, Leda caught the eyes of Zeus who quickly transformed himself into a swan. He arranged for an eagle to attack him in swan form, invoking Leda’s empathy. After the aerial battle subsided, Leda approached the wary swan and comforted it by placing her arms around the bird, not realizing that this animal was really the most powerful god. According to legend, this union produced the infamous beauty Helen, whose abduction by Paris would initiate the Trojan War, as well as one or more of her other offspring.

In this spectacular bronze rendition of this celebrated myth, Leda sits with her head turned to the left, grasping the swan by the neck and leg. She wears a long cloak that falls from her right shoulder, exposing her bare back and heightening the inherent eroticism of the piece. Her face is remarkably detailed, with full lips and eyes complete with indented pupils, and her hair is bound in a chignon and crowned by a diadem, perhaps alluding to her role as Queen of Sparta. These details on the swan are equally as stunning, with the texture of the individual feathers of his wings carefully incised. This masterpiece of ancient Roman bronze sculpture is a gorgeous rendition of one of the most popular mythological subjects. The circular composition is filled with movement, capturing the moment when Zeus’ true intentions are revealed. - (X.0107)


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