Leda and The Swan Painting History

Leda and the Swan

da Vinci  –  Michelangelo   – Veronesse.  –  Rubens. –  Boucher  – Delacroix



is a story and subject in art from Greek mythology in which the god Zeus, or Jupiter, in the Roman version, in the form of a swan, seduces or rapes Leda,  the daughter of the King of Aetolia, and married to the Spartan King Tyndareus. 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.

Leda and the Swan by Theodore Gericault

Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, known as Théodore Géricault (Rouen, September 26, 1791-Paris, January 26, 1824), was a French painter, one of the main pioneering figures of romantic painting. He studied with the academic painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, also Delacroix’s teacher. He rejected the prevailing neoclassicism, studied Rubens and began to paint directly from the model, without preparatory drawings.



In Italy he studied in 1816-1818 Michelangelo and the Baroque. His commented Raft of the Medusa combined baroque design, romantic realism and uncontrolled feelings. He admired Bonington and Constable and was in England in 1820-1822, exhibiting his Raft and his horse paintings. His career, though short, was highly influential, especially for its modern themes, its free execution, and the depiction of the romantic movement.1 The theme of the horse is a central theme of his work, at the beginning and end of his life. In particular, he copied the works of George Stubbs and Ward, and made numerous lithographs of horses and street scenes of London life.


Leda and the Swan Circle of Nicolas Vleughels (French, 1668–1737)



Nicolas Vleughels (6 December 1668, Paris – 11 December 1737, Rome) was a French painter. In his role as director of the French Academy in Rome, which he held from 1724 until his death, he played a pivotal role in the interchange between France and Italy in the first third of the 18th century.

Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre – Leda & Swan

Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Pierre painted his first self-portrait at the age of 18 and two years later he won the Rome Prize, which allowed him to live in the Italian capital for 5 years while he studied with his teachers Jean-François Troy and Nicolas Vleughels at the French Academy. During these years, Pierre was inspired to paint the city and its people. And he published a series of plates in Paris which he titled: Figures dessinées d’ après nature du bas-peuples à Rome. Customs and genre painting was not his only theme. Pierre reflected his ability and interest in historical pictures, religious paintings and mythology.

Pierre highlighted his mastery in technique and use of colors, the ability to capture that refined taste of the Rococo and to draw an anatomy of the human body with delicacy and perfection. He demonstrated with his strokes his skill for creating body movement in his protagonists and more expressive faces. For his Italian Baroque-style paintings, he achieved a pure and realistic painting with a darker background.

In this way, Pierre was a great reference for his contemporaries and an admirer of his time where he received commissions from art lovers, the Court and the Church.

This is how Pierre, who came from a wealthy family, achieved with his effort and dedication that prestige that led him to be named First Painter to the Duke of Orleans at the age of 38. It was at that time that he painted the two domes of the church of San Roque in Paris and made his great masterpiece. At the age of 56 he was appointed director of the French Academy of Arts and became Louis XV’s chamber painter.



Leda & the Swan – Ancient Greek Vase Painting


Leda and the Swan

After Michelangelo (1475–1564)

Leda and the Swan, c. 1530
copy of a lost painting by Michelangelo
Oil on canvas –  National Gallery
Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

The design appears to derive from a classical motif known from copies after sarcophagus reliefs and gems. The pose is similar to that of Michelangelo’s ‘Night’ (Medici Chapel, Florence).

The work is probably an old copy after a painting of this subject by Michelangelo which he made in 1530, in tempera, for the Duke of Ferrara, but which was sent instead to the King of France.

Cornelis Bos, Flemish, ca. 1510–before 1566 

after Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475–1564
Leda and the Swan, after 1537
Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

In his lifelong quest to acquire all things Italian, François I always sought to attract the greatest lights of Italian painting to his court. While he succeeded in convincing the aged Leonardo to enter his service in 1516, and, in so doing, obtained the Mona Lisa for France, the transalpine journey was a difficult and dangerous one, and neither Andrea del Sarto nor the notoriously overcommitted Michelangelo could accept François’s invitation.

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However, a rare panel painting of Leda and the Swan by Michelangelo did make its way to France in the possession of Michelangelo’s pupil, Antonio Mini, who seems to have sold it to François. It entered the royal collection at Fontainebleau in the early 1530s, and François’s court painter, Rosso Fiorentino, even painted a copy of it. The painting has since been lost. This print, engraved and published by the Flemish artist Cornelis Bos, is the only record of Michelangelo’s completed painting. Bos, whose first prints date to 1537, must have seen the work at Fontainebleau during a journey to France sometime after this date.

Ridolfo Ghirlandaio

Leda and the Swan, c.  (1460)
Ridolfo di Domenico Bigordi, better known as Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (14 February 1483 – 6 June 1561) was an Italian Renaissance painter active mainly in Florence. He was the son of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
He was born in Florence. Since he was eleven years old when his father died, Ridolfo was brought up by his uncle Davide Ghirlandaio, also a painter. Vasari states that he received further training under Fra Bartolomeo.
His works painted between 1504 and 1508 show a marked influence from Fra Bartolomeo and Raphael, with whom he was friends. Raphael asked Ridolfo to join him in Rome in 1508, but the Florentine painter stayed. In Florence, he became one of the most prominent painters of altarpieces, frescoes, and portraits, many of which survive. He was also the head of a thriving workshop whose pupils included Michele Tosini (also known as Michele di Ridolfo), Domenico Puligo, Bartolomeo Ghetti, Antonio del Ceraiolo, Toto del Nunziata, Mariano Graziadei da Pescia, Carlo Portelli and others.
Ridolfo was prominent in the execution of works for various public occasions, such as the wedding of Giuliano de’ Medici, and the entry of Leo X into Florence in 1515. By 1527 he had already accumulated a handsome property, more than sufficient in maintaining the affluence of his large family of fifteen children. His sons traded in France and in Ferrara, and he himself took a part in commercial affairs. The family villa at Colle Ramole, near Florence, still has a chapel with frescoes by Ridolfo depicting the Virgin and Child with saints adored by members of the Ghirlandaio family.
Ridolfo also experimented with mosaics, but it seems that only one such work, the Annunciation over the door of the Santissima Annunziata, survives today.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)

” Leda and the Swan ”  before 1600
Oil on panel
64.5 × 80.5 cm (25.4 × 31.7 in)


Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Peter Paul Rubens was a well known artist during the Baroque era. He completed hundreds of works in various mediums—many were famous at the time and still are today. But there are also many works of art that people don’t know much about. One of these works is his painting Leda and the Swan. He painted two versions of this subject. The first was completed in 1601 and the second was completed in 1602.


Antonio da Correggio (1490–1534)

Leda with the Swan, c. between 1531 and 1532
Oil on canvas
Height: 152 cm (59.8 in). Width: 191 cm (75.2 in).
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin


Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Correggio painted the commonest of the various versions of the ancient myth: Jupiter approached Leda on the banks of the river Eurota in the guise of a swan and seduced her. Leda and the swan can be seen on the bank in front of a clump of trees, on the left are two amoretti with wind instruments and a boyish Cupid with his lyre. lt is uncertain whether the figures on the right are Leda’s companions or a simultaneous presentation of other scenes from the story. 


Correggio was the leading painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance. Between 1503 and 1505 he was apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara of Modena where he became familiar with the classicism of artists like Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia, who deeply influenced his first works. His first major commission was the decoration of the ceiling of the private dining salon of the mother-superior in the Convent of St. Paul in Parma in 1519. The dome of the Cathedral of Parma was also adorned by him. Apart from his religious artworks, he created a very prominent set of mythological paintings based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Correggio prefigured the Rococo art of the 18th century in his use of dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening. ‘Leda with the Swan’ (1531-32) is one of his best known works among his famous frescoes in Parma. More

Bartolomeo Ammannati

Leda and the Swan (c. 1536)
Marble, height 50 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello


Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

This sculpture of Leda is essentially a study piece, a small-scale work that translates a now lost Michelangelo design into three-dimensions. It shows Ammanati attempting to master the kinds of figural inventions that defined Michelangelo’s artistry, but the choice to carry out the composition in stone also reflects an awareness that the sculptor did not work in absolute liberty, that he always had to deal with the given block.


Luca Cambiaso (1527-1575)

Leda and the swan, between 1560 and 1570
Oil on canvas
151×95 cm
I have no further description, at this time


Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Leda and the swan is an extraordinary style painting belonging to a period of Luca Cambiaso not always supported by the same creative impulse. The work in fact, referring to the years around 1570, is definitely one of the greatest achievements in the purity of lines and elegant stylized forms. The imposing figure of the swan, which houses within the great wings of the diaphanous body Leda, manages to preserve the majesty of the father of the gods, Zeus, hiding under his remains, according to the myth that describes one of the most fascinating amorous tricks. In 1999 Maria Cali in the book “The second manner of profane paintings by Luca Cambiaso” published “Leda and the Swan” as an authentic work of the painter Ligurian emphasizing in a special way as the theme dedicated to the loves of Jupiter in the Italian painting of the early sixteenth century was particularly widespread episode of fertilization of the fascinating queen of Spartan by Jupiter by turning into a swan

Luca Cambiasi (18 November 1527 – 6 September 1585) was an Italian painter and draftsman, familiarly known as Lucchetto da Genova. Cambiasi was precocious, and at the age of fifteen he painted, along with his father, some subjects from Ovid’s Metamorphoses on the facade of a house in Genoa. In 1544, at the age of seventeen, he was involved in the decoration of the Palazzo Doria, now the Prefettura. He aided in the vault decoration of the church of San Matteo. His Resurrection and Transfiguration altarpieces for San Bartolomeo degli Armeni date from c. 1560. In 1563, he painted a Resurrection for San Giovanni Battista in Montalto Ligure.
This was followed by frescoes for the Villa Imperiale at Genoa-Turalba (also called the Palazzo Imperiali Terralba) with a Rape of the Sabines (c. 1565) and the Palazzo Meridiana (formerly Grimaldi; also in 1565). In the Capella Lercari of the Duomo di San Lorenzo, Cambiasi frescoed a Presentation and Marriage of the Virgin in 1569, remainder of chapel by Castello.


The 1911 Britannica states that Cambiasi by his thirties began to decline in skill, though not at once in reputation, owing to the vexations brought upon him by a passion which he conceived for his sister-in-law. His wife having died, and the sister-in-law had taken charge of his house and children, he failed to procure a papal dispensation for marrying her.

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In 1583 he accepted an invitation from Philip II to complete for the Escorial a series of frescoes begun by Castello; and the 1911 Encyclopædia states the principal reason for traveling to Spain was that he hoped royal influence would gain favor with the Vatican for his marriage plans, but this failed. In the Escorial he executed a Paradise on the vaulting of the church, with a multitude of figures. For this picture he received 2,000 ducats, probably the largest sum that had, up to that time, ever been given for a single work. His paintings in Spain, hew to strict religious thematic.

Hugues Taraval 1729 – 1785

Leda and the swan

Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History

Hugues Taraval is the son of Guillaume Taraval (1701-1750), who taught him the first rudiments of painting. From 1732 to 1750, the passe sa jeunesse à Stockholm où son père de él, premier peintre du roi de Suède, qui avait été appelé à Stockholm par l’intendant des Beaux-Arts Harlemann, réalisait des décors dans les palais royaux.

De retour à Paris, il devient l’élève de Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714-1789) au sein de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. Lauréat du prix de Rome in 1756, with Job raillé par sa femme (Musee des beaux-arts de Marseille), Taraval entre à l’École royale des élèves protégés directed by Carle Van Loo (1705-1765), avant de séjourner à Rome as pensionnaire of the Académie de France from 1759 to 1763. He joined the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1765, and is reçu in 1769, with his son’s morceau de réception, Le Triomphe de Bacchus, un des éléments du plafond de la Galerie d’Apollon au musée du Louvre.

Peintre decorateur, il œuvra au château de Bellevue à Meudon (1767), à l’École militaire de Paris (1773), au Collège de France (1777), au château de Marly (1781) et au château de Fontainebleau (1781).

Paolo Veronese  (1528–1588)

Leda and the Swan, c. circa 1585
Oil on canvas
height: 121 cm (47.6 in); width: 100 cm (39.3 in)
Musée Fesc

Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History
Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese (1528 – 19 April 1588) was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of both religious and mythological subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” or 16th-century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colorist, and after an early period with Mannerist influence turned to a more naturalist style influenced by Titian

Leda & the Swan Mosaic

Greek-Roman mosaic
C3rd A.D
Museum of Cyprus, Nicosia
Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and the Swan 
Mural in Pompeii (Italy) – c 150 b.C

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.

Leonardo da Vinci

Study for the Kneeling Leda (c. 1505 – 1507)
Drawing on paper


Leda and The Swan Painting History
Leda and The Swan Painting History
A standing figure of Leda almost entirely naked, with the swan at her and two eggs, from whose broken shells come forth four babies, This work, although somewhat dry in style, is exquisitely finished, especially in the woman’s breast; and for the rest of the landscape and the plant life are rendered with the greatest diligence. Unfortunately the picture is in a bad state because it is done on three long panels which have split apart and broken off a certain amount of paint

Francesco Melzi after a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci

Leda and the Swan, c. 1508-1515
Oil on canvas
height: 131 cm (51.5 in); width: 78 cm (30.7 in)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Francesco Melzi (ca. 1491 – 1568/1570) was an Italian painter. He was the son of a Milanese noble family. Melzi joined the household of Leonardo da Vinci in 1506. He accompanied Leonardo on trips to Rome in 1513 and to France in 1517. As a painter, Melzi worked closely with and for Leonardo. Some works which, during the nineteenth century, were attributed to Leonardo are today ascribed to Melzi.[citation needed]

Upon Leonardo’s death, Melzi inherited the artistic and scientific works, manuscripts, and collections of Leonardo, and would henceforth faithfully administer the estate. Melzi wrote to Leonardo’s brothers to notify them of his death, and in this letter he described Leonardo’s love for his pupils as “sviscerato e ardentissimo amore” a selfless and incandescent love.

Returning to Italy, Melzi married, and fathered a son, Orazio. When Orazio died on his estate in Vaprio d’Adda, his heirs sold the collection of Leonardo’s works.

Andrea Piccinelli, called Andrea Brescianino

Oil on panel
68.5 x 129.8 cm.; 27 x 51 1/8  in.
Private collection
Likely painted in Siena in the 1520s this unusual panel was probably intended as the headboard to a bed in a marital chamber. It compares closely with other such works by the artist and his greatest Sienese influence Domenico Beccafumi; all of these, like this, depict a famous woman as their principle subject.

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Andrea del Brescianino or Dei Piccinelli was an Italian painter of the Renaissance period, active mainly in Siena. Together with his brother Raffaello they were known as the Brescianini of Siena. He was the son of a dancing-master at Siena, where he flourished from 1507 to 1525. He was the pupil of a Sienese painter, named Giovanni Battista Giusi, and they together painted an altar-piece, representing the Virgin and Child, with Saints, which is in the Siena Academy.

In 1524, he painted the Baptism of Christ for the baptistery of the cathedral of the same city. In 1525 the brothers went to Florence, and in the same year Andrea, and probably Raffaello also, was registered in the Painters’ Guild. A Holy Family by Andrea, who was the better artist of the two, is in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, and another Holy Family, ascribed to him, is in the Berlin Gallery. The beautiful altar-piece, a Holy Family displayed at the church of Torre di Bibiano, long attributed to Baldassare Peruzzi, has been attributed to Andrea. The brothers appear to have worked under the influence of Fra Bartolommeo.

Vincent Sellaer 

Leda and the Swan, c. 1538
Oil on panel
109.5 × 88 cm (43.1 × 34.6 in)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes

Vincent Sellaer (1490 – 1564), was a Flemish Renaissance painter of mythological and religious subjects. Very few of the biographical details of this artist are known with any level of certainty. Although there is still no unanimous consensus, it is accepted by most scholars that Vincent Sellaer should be identified with the artist to whom the early 17th century biographer Karel van Mander referred as Vincent Geldersman. Van Mander described Sellaer as a good painter of allegories, such as Leda with two eggs, Susanna and the elders, and Cleopatra with the asp. Van Mander mentioned him in his Life of Frans Minnebroer as one of the notable painters of Mechelen. While many known versions of a Leda and the Swan have been attributed to Sellaer, none has survived that depicts a Leda with eggs.
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Jacopo da Pontormo (1494–1557)

Leda and the Swan. between 1512 and 1513
Oil on panel
Height: 55 cm (21.7 in). Width: 40 cm (15.7 in).
Uffizi Gallery

Jacopo Carucci (May 24, 1494 – January 2, 1557), usually known as Jacopo da Pontormo, was an Italian Mannerist painter and portraitist from the Florentine School. His work represents a profound stylistic shift from the calm perspectival regularity that characterized the art of the Florentine Renaissance. He is famous for his use of twining poses, coupled with ambiguous perspective; his figures often seem to float in an uncertain environment, unhampered by the forces of gravity. 
One of Pontormo’searliest works, Leda and the Swan, influenced by da Vinci’s own depiction of Leda, hangs in the Uffizi. Though, the piece is still sometimes argued to be a work of Sarto or possibly Perin del Vaga (1501 – 1547).
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Bacchiacca (1494–1557)

Leda and the Swan, 16th century
Oil on panel

Francesco d’Ubertino Verdi, called Bachiacca (1494–1557) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance whose work is characteristic of the Florentine Mannerist style. He was born and baptized in Florence on March 1, 1494 and died there on October 5, 1557. He apprenticed in Perugino’s Florentine studio, and by 1515 began to collaborate with Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Pontormo and Francesco Granacci.

Painted furnishings for the bedroom of Pierfrancesco Borgherini and Margherita Acciauoli. In 1523, he again participated with Andrea del Sarto, Franciabigio and Pontormo in the decoration of the antechamber of Giovanni Benintendi. While he established a reputation as a painter of predellas and small cabinet pictures, he eventually expanded his output to include large altarpieces, such as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, now in Berlin.


In 1540, Bachiacca became an artist at the court of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and Duchess Eleanor of Toledo. In this capacity, Bachiacca’s first major commission was to paint the walls and ceiling of the duke’s private study with plants, animals and a landscape. Bachiacca also made cartoons for two series of tapestries, the Grotesque Spalliere (1545–49) and the Months (1550–1553), which were woven by the newly founded Medici tapestry works. All of these works either contain carefully observed illustrations of nature or display the artist’s trademark method and style, in which Bachiacca combines figures, exotic costumes and other motifs acquired from Italian artists and German and Netherlandish prints into entirely new compositions. These cosmopolitan assemblages exhibited the most praiseworthy elements of both northern and southern European Renaissance art, which appealed to their courtly clientele. 

Antoine Coypel (1661–1722)

Leda and The Swan
Oil on canvas
National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle

Antoine Coypel (11 April 1661 – 7 January 1722) was a history painter, the more famous son of the French painter Noël Coypel.
Antoine Coypel was born in Paris. He studied under his father, with whom he spent four years at Rome. At the age of eighteen he was admitted into the Académie de peinture et de sculpture, of which he became professor and rector in 1707, and director in 1714. In 1716 he was appointed king’s painter, and he was ennobled in the following year.

His great work of decoration was the ceiling of the Royal chapel at Versailles (1716), in the manner of the Roman Baroque. He also carried out large-scale paintings illustrating themes of the Aeneid for the Palais-Royal (1714–1717).


Roman marble possibly reflecting a lost work by Timotheos

Leda and the Swan
El Prado Museum, Madrid. – Rome Musei Capitolini


Timotheus  was a Greek sculptor of the 4th century BC, one of the rivals and contemporaries of Scopas of Paros, among the sculptors who worked for their own fame on the construction of the grave of Mausolus at Halicarnassus between 353 and 350 BC. He was apparently the leading sculptor at the temple of Asklepios at Epidaurus, c. 380 BC. To him is attributed a sculpture of Leda and the Swan in which the queen Leda of Sparta protected a swan from an eagle, on the basis of which a Roman marble copy in the Capitoline Museums is said to be “after Timotheus”.

The theme must have been popular, judging by the more than two dozen Roman marble copies that survive. The most famous version has been that in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, purchased by Pope Clement XIV from the heirs of Cardinal Alessandro Albani. A highly restored version is in the Museo del Prado, and an incomplete one is in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut

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François Boucher (1703–1770)

Leda and the Swan, circa 1740


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François Boucher (29 September 1703 – 30 May 1770) was a French painter in the Rococo style. Boucher is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories, and pastoral scenes. He was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour.
Throughout his life, Francois Boucher was successful and recognized in his work. Member of the Academy in Paris since 1734 ,. He was awarded the Grand Prix of Rome by the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The king’s favor, who named Boucher the first painter at court in 1765, remained unchanged until his death

Gianbettino Cignaroli, Verona 1706-1770

Oil on canvas
60 1/4  by 45 3/4  in.; 153.1 by 116 cm
Private collectio

Giambettino Cignaroli (Verona, July 4, 1706 – Verona, December 1, 1770) was an Italian painter of the Rococo and early Neoclassic period. He was a pupil of Santo Prunato and Antonio Balestra and active mostly in the area of the Veneto. He became the director of the academy of painting and sculpture of Verona in December 1764. The Academy was subsequently known as Accademia Cignaroli. Among his many pupils were Giovanni Battista Lorenzi, Saverio Dalla Rosa, Domenico Mondini, Domenico Pedarzoli, and Cristopher Unterberger. His brother Giovanni Domenico Cignaroli was also a painter.

For the Austrian governor of Lombardy and a collector of antiquities, Count Karl von Firmian, Cignaroli painted two canvases on Greek-Roman episodes, a thematic preferred by Neoclassic painters: Death of Cato (1759) and Death of Socrates.


Giambettino was born into a family of artists, and this tradition continued after his death with his children. Artists from his family who were contemporaries and elders of Giambettino include his uncle Leonardo Seniore, and his two sons (cousins of Giambettino), Martino and Pietro.


Heinrich Lossow (1840–1897)

Leda and the Swan, c. 19th century
Oil on wood.
55 x 43 cm.
Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin


Heinrich Lossow (10 March 1843 in Munich, Germany – 19 May 1897 in Schleissheim, Germany) was a German genre painter and illustrator. He was a prolific pornographer in his spare time. Lossow’s father was Arnold Hermann Lossow, a Bremen sculptor. His father moved to Munich in 1820 to study under Ernst Mayer. In Munich, Arnold Hermann Lossow married and had three children: Carl Lossow in 1835, Friedrich Lossow in 1837, and Heinrich Lossow in 1843. The three boys had an affinity for art; Carl became a historical painter, while Friedrich became a wildlife painter. Heinrich would outlive all of his siblings.

He first trained under his father but would go onto study under Karl Theodor von Piloty at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. He then travel through France and Italy perfecting his art.  His was an illustrator for publishers, including one for an edition of William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Later in his life, he served as a curator at the Schleissheim Palace 


Jean Henry (1734–1784)

Leda and the Swan.
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts in Marseille


Jean-Henry D’arles (1734-1784)  was a French landscape painter whose theatrically illuminated landscapes display a close observation of nature and its effects. He won first prize of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Marseille in 1753. D’Arles would also have been influenced by Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) whose ‘Tempest’ he would have seen at the ‘Exhibition du Paysage Francais’ in 1756. 

Théodore Géricault

Leda and the Swan, c. 1780
H. 0.21 m; L. 0.28 m
Louvre Museum

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault (26 September 1791 – 26 January 1824) was an influential French painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings. Although he died young, he was one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement. 

Géricault’s first major work, The Charging Chasseur, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1812, revealed the influence of the style of Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. This youthful success, was followed by a change in direction: for the next several years Géricault produced a series of small studies of horses and cavalrymen. In the nearly two years that followed the 1814 Salon, he also underwent a self-imposed study of figure construction and composition, all the while evidencing a personal predilection for drama and expressive force.


A trip to Florence, Rome, and Naples (1816–17), ignited a fascination with Michelangelo. Rome itself inspired the preparation of a monumental canvas, the Race of the Barberi Horses, a work of epic composition and abstracted theme that promised to be “entirely without parallel in its time”. In the event, Géricault never completed the painting, and returned to France. In 1821, he painted The Derby of Epsom. 

François-Édouard Picot (1786–1868)

Leda and the Swan, c. 1832
Oil on canvas
Private collection

François-Edouard Picot (Paris, 10 October 1786 – 15 March 1868, Paris) was a French painter during the July Monarchy, painting mythological, religious and historical subjects. Picot won the Prix de Rome painting scholarship in 1813 , and gained success at the 1819 Salon with his neoclassical L’Amour et Psyché..

He painted the The Crowning of the Virgin in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette  and had large commissions for the Galerie des Batailles. He exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1819 and 1839. Elected to the Paris Academy in 1836, Picot was also created an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1832. More

For the ancient Greeks, the constellation Cygnus, which means “swan”, was related to the myth of Zeus and the goddess Nemesis. In order to escape from Zeus, Nemesis changed herself into many different animals. When she changed into a goose, Zeus immediately transformed himself into a wonderful swan and won the love of Nemesis.

The goddess became pregnant, delivered an egg and then abandoned it. Fortunately, a shepherd found the egg and gave it to Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta. From that egg came Helen of Troy. Helen was so beautiful that Leda claimed her as her own child.

The constellation Cygnus was formed to celebrate the lovely swan. According to another version of the myth, Zeus transformed himself into a swan to court Leda, the queen of Sparta. and from that relationship, Leda had two children: Polydeuces and Helen. 

Eugène Delacroix

Leda and the Swan, c. 1834
63 x 88 cm
Musee Eugene Delacroix, Paris, France


One of a series of three made for the Abbaye de Valmont, now in Musée Delacroix in Paris.
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix ( 26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school. His use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of colour profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement. A fine lithographer, Delacroix illustrated various works of William Shakespeare, the Scottish writer Walter Scott and the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In contrast to the Neoclassical perfectionism of his chief rival Ingres, Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance. Dramatic and romantic content characterized the central themes of his maturity, and led him not to the classical models of Greek and Roman art, but to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic. Friend and spiritual heir to Théodore Géricault, Delacroix was also inspired by Lord Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the “forces of the sublime”, of nature in often violent action.
However, Delacroix was given to neither sentimentality nor bombast, and his Romanticism was that of an individualist. In the words of Baudelaire, “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.

William Etty, English, 1787-1849

Study for “Leda and the Swan”, c.1840
Oil on canvas
16-3/4 x 21 in. (42.5 x 53.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

William Etty (10 March 1787 – 13 November 1849) was an English artist best known for his history paintings containing nude figures. He was the first significant British painter of nudes and still lifes. Born in York, he left school at the age of 12 to become an apprentice printer in Hull. He completed his apprenticeship seven years later and moved to London, where in 1807 he joined the Royal Academy Schools. There he studied under Thomas Lawrence and trained by copying works by other artists. Etty earned respect at the Royal Academy of Arts for his ability to paint realistic flesh tones, but had little commercial or critical success.


Gustave Moreau (1826–1898)

Leda, c. 1865-1875
Oil on canvas
Musée Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau (6 April 1826 – 18 April 1898) was a French Symbolist painter whose main emphasis was the illustration of biblical and mythological figures. As a painter, Moreau appealed to the imaginations of some Symbolist writers and artists. Born in Paris, Moreau initially studied under the guidance of François-Édouard Picot and became a friend of Théodore Chassériau, whose work strongly influenced his own. His first painting was a Pietà which is now located in the cathedral at Angoulême. He showed A Scene from the Song of Songs and The Death of Darius in the Salon of 1853. In 1853 he contributed Athenians with the Minotaur and Moses Putting Off his Sandals within Sight of the Promised Land to the Great Exhibition.

Moreau became a professor at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts in 1891 and among his many students was fauvist painter Henri Matisse. Moreau died in Paris and was buried there in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

During his lifetime, Moreau produced more than 8,000 paintings, watercolors and drawings, many of which are on display in Paris’ Musée national Gustave Moreau at 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld (9th arrondissement). The museum is in his former workshop, and began operation in 1903. André Breton famously used to “haunt” the museum and regarded Moreau as a precursor of Surrealism.


Arturo Michelena (1863–1898)

Leda y el cisne, c. 1887
Oil on canvas
Galería de Arte Nacional

Francisco Arturo Michelena Castillo (16 June 1863  – 29 July 1898) was a Venezuelan painter born in Valencia, Carabobo State. He began to paint at a young age under his father’s tutelage. Traveled to Paris where he studied in the famous Académie Julian. He was the first Venezuelan artist to succeed overseas and one of the most important Venezuelan painters of the 19th century. 

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)

Leda and the Swan, between circa 1880 and circa 1882
Oil on canvas
59,8 x 75 cm
Barnes Foundation

Paul Cézanne (19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne’s intense study of his subjects.


Cézanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” More


Léon François Comerre (French, 1850–1916)

The Triumph of the Swan/ Leda and the swan, c.1908
Oil on Canvas
62.2 x 91.8 cm. (24.5 x 36.1 in.)
Private collection



Léon François Comerre (10 October 1850 – 20 February 1916) was a French academic painter, famous for his portraits of beautiful women. He was born in Trélon, in the Département du Nord, the son of a schoolteacher. He moved to Lille with his family in 1853. From an early age he showed an interest in art and became a student of Alphonse Colas at the École des Beaux-Arts in Lille, winning a gold medal in 1867. From 1868 a grant from the Département du Nord allowed him to continue his studies in Paris at the famous École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in the studio of Alexandre Cabanel. There he came under the influence of orientalism.



Comerre first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1871 and went on to win prizes there in 1875 and 1881. In 1875 he won the Grand Prix de Rome for his painting “L’Ange annonçant aux bergers la naissance du Christ” (The Angel announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds). This led to a scholarship at the French Academy in Rome from January 1876 to December 1879. In 1885 he won a prize at the “Exposition Universelle” in Antwerp. He also won prestigious art prizes in the USA (1876) and Australia (1881 and 1897). He became a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1903.