Zeus has come to
seduce Leda in the form of a beautiful swan.
She will give
birth to Helen of Troy, the woman
over whom the Trojan War will be fought. In Ancient Greek
mythology – and in William Butler Yeats’
poem – Leda's rape is taken as an indirect cause of war.
The speaker in Yeats’ poem wonders if Leda acquired any of Zeus's knowledge as the swan
overpowered her. Did she know she was having sex with a god? She didn't have
too long to think about it, because as soon as the swan had gotten what he
wanted, he let her fall to the ground as if he couldn't care less.
and the Swan is a long-running theme in the
genre of mythological painting. There
are no less than thirty-three known paintings by artists including:
The most famous version was created by Leonardo da
Vinci. My modern
interpretation is based upon the composition, color family and size of
Leonardo’s lost masterpiece.
"Leda and the Swan", Oil on Canvas, 28"x40", 2013
Vinci began making studies in 1504 for a "Seated Leda" painting,
which was, apparently never executed. All we have are the few sketches and a
copy by Giampietrino. During the second
stay at Milan (around 1508) Leonardo finished another version of the subject,
this time Leda was standing and wrapped her arms around Zeus in a guise of
beautiful swan, while four of their of children (who were Castor, Polux, Helen
of Troy and Clytemnestra in original myth) were having their birth from
swan-eggs. The painting showed a deep reference to nature study, while the
babies were shown in kind of serpenticle poses as the true baby birds are in
that pose while breaking out of egg-shell. Despite this, the female figure of
Leda is not quite realistic in anatomy at all - maybe because this was the
first and the only painting of the female nude that Leonardo ever finished.
depiction must have been very successful because as the legend tells after the
original painting was inherited by pupils of Leonardo; it was bought by a
French aristocrat. He must have liked this painting more than his own wife,
because she tore Leonardo's masterpiece apart and burned it in the 17th or 18th
century. - North