Leda Seated with the Swan2020-07-14T10:14:51+00:00

Project Description

Leda Seated with the Swan (30-37 A.D.)

The head, placed on a slender neck, is that of a mature woman with an oval face and a small mouth with full lips. Her hair, parted in the centre, is rendered with gentle waves and held in place with a thin hairband; locks falling from her temples form curls in front of her ears. At the rear, the locks are gathered on the nape in a knot fastened by a ring. Behind her ears, two long locks, added during the 19th-century restoration, fall onto her shoulders. This is a portrait of Antonia Minor) the second daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia. The children of her marriage to Nero Claudius Drusus in 16 B.c. were Germanicus, Livilla and the future emperor Claudius. In A.D. 31 she revealed Sejanus’s conspiracy to Tiberius, and the present portrait, another copy of which is in the castle of Erbach, may be dated to this occasion. A model for women’s coiffures in the Napoleonic era and a perfect pendant to Pauline (no. 15), the head was installed in this room in 1889, when it was attached to the Leda. Evasio Gozzani mentioned the group in the report he sent to Prince Camillo Borghese on 25 May 1826, after an inspection carried out with Antonio D’Este and Massimiliano Laboureur, who were entrusted with the restoration work. The report was followed by a list of “Statues, and Works of Sculpture at the Villa Borghese judged worthy of Restoration, to be placed inside the Casino Nobile of the Same”, from which it may be deduced that this group formed part of the decoration of the Giardino del Lago. The Leda was also mentioned in the draft contract enclosed with the letter of 8 June 1826, in which Gozzani estimated the cost of restoring a dozen marble sculptures in the park as being 1,590 scudi. Because of its complexity, the group of the woman with the swan was one of the most. difficult to renovate: the work on it cost 225 scudi. The group was believed to be modern — apart from the head — until the cleaning carried out in 1996. The antique section comprises part of the rock with Leda’s legs, torso and part of the drapery. The armilla on her left arm and the garland of flowers in her hand are also original, as is the begging the prop that went from the right leg to support the swan, the leftmwing of which is antique. The love of Zeus, disguised as a swan, for the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, was depicted in many images ranging from those of the classical age to those of the Coptic Church, where the myth was interpreted as a prefiguration of the birth of Christ: a copy after Timotheus’s Leda is displayed in room VI (no. 18). In this case, the woman is lying on the banks of the Eurotas; the garland alludes to the activity of picking flowers and threading them together in which she was engaged. Until the rediscovery of the present work, sculptural evidence of this schema was limited to representations on sarcophagi (Museo Capitolino and Palazzo Corsetti, Rome). The sensuous gesture of the swan placing its beak on Leda’s breast has been well interpreted by the restorer, but the addition of the head stiffens the movement of the woman as she abandons herself to her avian lover. /

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