Pittore manierista, XVI secolo

Mannerist painter, 16th century

Leda and the swan

Oil on canvas, cm 87,5 x 142

Initial 'P', in the center of a pillow embroidery

: PS2300649

Mannerist painter, 16th century

Leda and the swan

Oil on canvas, cm 87,5 x 142

Initial 'P', in the center of a pillow embroidery

Leda, queen of Sparta and wife of Tindarus, is laid on a sheet with the bust raised by a white pillow. His figure, which occupies the entire space of the canvas, is gently prepared that of Zeus under the guise of a swan. Following this union, according to the myth, Leda laid an egg from which Elena, Pollux, Castor and Clitennestra were born. The story was supposed to take place along the Eurota River, but in the background, in this painting, is a detailed glimpse of a mountain range surrounding a lake, and some buildings. These include an aqueduct and the Cestia Pyramid: a landscape piece of great quality, in essence, especially in the color rendition of the surrounding vegetation and the sparsely delineated mountains, The artist studied the works of Leonardo. 

The voluminousness of the female figure refers to Mannerist styles and it is therefore possible to circumscribe the chronological scope of the same realization in the mid-sixteenth century. For the origins of the iconography of the lying Leda, in antiquity preferred in the variant stante, it is necessary to dwell on an engraving by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), depicting the woman in the company, instead of the swan, of a marine being. Cesare Reverdino (second half of the sixteenth century) immediately resumed this work, this time alongside Queen Zeus under changed forms. It is the lost version of Michelangelo, however, that inspired the greatest number of replicas: painted on commission by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, the canvas imposed itself as an open challenge to his colleague Titian, who had just given the duke three paintings.Michelangelo completed the work, according to the biographer Condivi of large dimensions, by 1530 or the following year; it would seem that, in response, Titian immortalized the famous Danae now in the collection of the Museum and Real Bosco di Capodimonte, which Michelangelo saw when in Rome but which he criticized, in 1545. Following a discussion with the Duke’s representative, the Tuscan artist donated canvas and preparatory cartoon to the student Antonio Mini, that took both to France to sell them to Francis I. Despite the tradition that it was the superintendent of Fontainebleau Des Noyers to burn the original painting, for indecency, still missing the evidence of his death: We know, however, that Cornelis Bos made a copy in engraving and that Michelangelo himself made a study for the face of Leda in red chalk that is now kept at Casa Buonarroti in Florence.  The oldest replica of the master’s canvas is today the painting on display at the National Gallery in London, although the Dioscuri mentioned by Cornelis do not appear there. Long attributed to Rosso Fiorentino because of the testimony of Cassiano del Pozzo who saw a similar one in the painting of Fontainebleau in 1625 and also because of the cartoon that Vasari remembers in the artist’s studio at the time of his death in 1540 (London, Royal Academy of Arts), the canvas has now been more cautiously traced to an anonymous hand.  

The variation of Leda sdraiata, also recurring in a sculpture by Bartolomeo Ammanati (Florence, Bargello National Museum), was approached through Leonardo da Vinci that of the queen near a reed bed kneeling (Studio per la Leda, Rotterdam, Museo Boymans-van Beuningen and Chatsworth House, Derbyshire), soon revived by the large group of his students including Cesare da Sesto (Rome, Galleria Borghese) and Francesco Melzi (Florence, Uffizi Galleries). Later Raphael replied a Leonardesque study proposing a Leda stante (Windsor, Royal Collection).

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PS2300649

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