Leda and the Swan

LL 206


This work illustrates the Greek myth in which Zeus, the king of the gods, seduces Leda after visiting her in the form of a swan. It is a topic that has fascinated artists for centuries and has been illustrated by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Boucher, as well as writers and poets such as WB Yeats. When this work was first exhibited at the 1898 Salon, the figure of Leda was made from ivory. At the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, where Lever bought the piece, the figure was marble. The ivory or marble permits her soft white body to stand out sharply against the dark swan. Like Salammbo (LL 205), this work displays languid sensuality and dark eroticism. Understandably, sculptures of this sort were rarely bought by public art galleries, but Lever's collecting provides a rare opportunity to see what was eagerly sought after by some private collectors around the turn of the 20th century.