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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Leda and the Swan
Date: ca. 1540
Medium: Engraving on laid paper
Dimensions: Image: 12 1/4 x 16 1/4 inches (31.1 x 41.3 cm); Sheet: 12 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (32.1 x 42.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of George C. Kenney II and Olga Kitsakos-Kenney
Object Number: 86.094.003
Label Text: In his lifelong quest to acquire all things Italian, François I sought to attract the greatest lights of Italian painting-including Leonardo and Michelangelo-to his court. While he succeeded in convincing the aged Leonardo to enter his service in 1516, Michelangelo did not accept François's invitation. 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; the painting has since been lost. While in François's possession, it would likely have hung in his bath house with his other fine Italian paintings.

The story of Leda comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and tells of a mortal maiden who was seduced by Jupiter in the form of a swan. To judge from similar subject matter in the decorations for his palace at Fontainebleau, François seems to have been particularly intrigued by the idea of a powerful ruler made foolish enough by passionate, excessive desire to transform himself into an animal. Contemporaries would have enjoyed the eroticism of the scene, while benefiting from a moral lesson.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.