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Leda and the swan

Related: animal - seduction - erotic art - pretexts in pre-1850s erotic art - zoophilia - mythology

Leda and the Swan, 1530, Michelangelo


In Greek mythology, Leda was the daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius, and the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta.

Leda was loved by Zeus, who seduced her in the guise of a swan. As a swan, Zeus fell into her arms for protection from a pursuing eagle. Their consummation resulted in an egg, from which hatched Helen - later known as the beautiful Helen Of Troy. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leda [Sept 2006]

Leda and the swan

The motif of Leda and the Swan from Greek mythology, in which the Greek god Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan, was rarely seen in Gothic art, but resurfaced as a classicizing theme, with erotic overtones, in Italian painting and sculpture of the 16th Century. The most familiar examples are the copies of Leonardo da Vinci's lost painting, with the two sets of infant twins, 1508; Correggio's elaborate composition of c. 1530 (Berlin); and two versions of a lost Michelangelo that is also known from an engraving by Cornelis de Bos, c. 1563; the marble sculpture by Bartolomeo Ammanati in the Bargello, Florence; and the painting after Michelangelo, c. 1530, in the National Gallery, London. The Michelangelo composition is a definitive example of Mannerism.

Leda and the Swan furnished a common motif for the rapidly unfolding visual arts into the 19th century.

Leda And The Swan is a poem by William Butler Yeats first published in 1924. Reviving what had become an insipid classical cliché by combining psychological realism with a mystic vision, it describes the swan's mating with 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. As the story goes, Zeus took the form of a swan and slept with Leda on the same night as 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. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leda_and_the_Swan [Sept 2006]

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