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Leda and the Swan

Painting, 1817, 22×28 cm

Description of the artwork «Leda and the Swan»

Excellent drawing “Leda and the Swan”, made by Theodore Gericault during a short stay in Italy (1816-1817), is one of the rare examples of the appeal to eroticism in his work (there is still such). This may seem paradoxical: an artist whose essence of creativity was to capture the body (no matter a person or a horse), in which all nerves tremble and all muscles are stretched to the limit - this artist practically did not leave the pictures of love subjects. A purely erotic theme, so important to French art in the previous century, left Gericault deeply indifferent.

For erotica he will turn to Italy. This interest can be explained by the powerful influence of Italian art, and simply by the hot southern air permeated by love languor. But, taking up the famous mythological plot, Gericault refuses to interpret it as a love story. Let's try to understand why.

The daughter of the Aetolian king, Leda, gave birth to an egg, from which Helen, the most beautiful of women, would emerge. According to another version, the twins Castor and Polidevk came from the egg. This happened after Ledoy was possessed by the god Zeus, who assumed the shape of a swan. In essence, “Leda and the Swan” Géricault is a sketch. One of the sketches that the artist, with his times inhuman capacity for work, produced in dozens, if not hundreds. By the way, it is precisely in the rapid impetuousness of the sketch that the individuality of the master is often most pronounced. However, the completeness and non-trivial interpretation of the plot deduces “Leda and the Swan” beyond the scope of a simple sketch.

During his stay in Italy, Gericault temporarily cools down to the traditional oil technique and begins to experiment, without limiting himself in the materials. For "Leda and the Swan" he uses several techniques at once. Their catalog description is as follows: "Black pencil, brown ink, blue watercolor, white gouache".

"Leda and the Swan" have already appeared in French painting before Gericault. The plot, for example, was repeatedly used by master rococo Francois Bouchertreating him then in a harmless pastoral spiritor even in almost pornographic. Neither one nor the other could attract Zheriko. His guide for creative dialogue was Michelangelo. Memories of the visit of Theodore Gericault of the Sistine Chapel have been preserved. They say he went out, trembling all over. The shock was so strong that provoked a fever. For Jericho Michelangelo became the ruler of thoughts for a long time, and engraving from his unsaved painting "Leda and the Swan", quite possibly, could serve as a source for drawing. The French artist was deeply like Michelangelo's powerful physical plastic, but the interpretation of the plot itself is not only significantly different - dramatically.

A huge swan from the figure of Gericault, aggressively bending his neck and spreading his wings, hangs over the thighs of the protruding Leda. The plants in the background are breathtaking by the storm. We seem to hear the howling of the wind and the ominous hiss of the swan, which the woman is trying to push. Jericho emphasizes how tense her muscles are in readiness for a duel - and hardly a love one. And if Michelangelo's Leda and the Swan, with a bird sandwiched between Leda’s legs and their heads drawn together in a kiss, speaks of irresistible sensuality, then Leda and the Swan are literally crying out about violence and resistance.

Author: Anna Yesterday
I like12 To the selection18
About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Nude, Mythological scene

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Watercolor, Gouache, Ink, Pencil

Materials: Paper

Date of creation: 1817

Size: 22×28 cm

Artwork in selections: 18 selections