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Leda and the Swan by Jean-Leon Gerome

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Leda and the Swan by Jean-Leon Gerome

- Item No.

Jean Leon Gerome depicts the myth of Leda and the Swan

Key Features

  • This exquisite painting by French artist Jean-Leon Gerome depicts the myth of Leda and the Swan
  • A champion of orientalism Gerome lends to his depiction of Leda an intoxicating and exotic scenario
  • Gerome was one of the most prominent French academic painters in the nineteenth century
  • During his career Gerome achieved great popularity and his work is still highly coveted today
  • Signed J.L. Gerome, lower right
  • Dated 1895
  • C: 32 1/2 high x 29 wide F: 38 high x 34 1/2 wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    C: 29" F: 34 1/2" Inches
  • Height:
    C: 32 1/2" F: 38" Inches
  • Period:
    19th Century
  • Origin:
  • Subject:
  • Artist:
    Gerome, Jean-Leon
Jean-Leon Gerome
1824-1904 French

Leda and the Swan

Signed J.L. Gerome (lower right)
Oil on canvas

This exquisite painting by acclaimed French artist Jean Leon Gerome depicts the highly charged mythological tale of Leda and the Swan.  Lavish in its attention to decoration, and striking in its juxtaposition of porcelain skin with glistening water, Gerome's Leda demonstrates the artist as the quintessential academic, a master of texture and form.  A champion of orientalism, Gerome lends to his depiction of Leda an intoxicating and exotic scenario. Instead of being ravaged by the swan, Leda openly embraces its arrival, transforming the myth into a surrealist vision of sensual delights.

The story of Leda and the Swan is a Greek myth where Zeus transforms into a swan and seduces Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta. Because Leda lays with her husband on the same night she eventually gives birth to two sets of twins born from two different eggs. Castor and Clytemnestra are fathered by Tyndareus and Pollux and Helen are the children of Zeus. Leda, through this double seduction, becomes impregnated with two major heroines of the Trojan War, her seduction marking an important precursor for the events of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Her boys Castor and Pollux eventually reside in the heavens as the immortal-mortal Gemini twins.

One of the most prominent French academic painters in the second half of the nineteenth century, Gerome was also among the foremost inventors of Orientalist themes.  Inspired by the year he spent in Rome with Paul Delaroche in 1834-44, he developed an insatiable appetite for traveling and in 1855 made his first trip to Egypt.  He became a meticulous recorder of the costume and customs of the near East and is probably best known for these Orientalist images especially his ones of nudes in Moorish or Turkish bath scenes. Gerome traveled widely in Turkey, Egypt and North Africa. A sculptor as well as a painter, his female figures have the same classical precision of Ingres, but are executed with a more pronounced sensuality and realism. During his career, Gerome achieved great popularity and he had considerable influence as a defender of academic tradition. Actively courted and patronized by collectors during his lifetime, the majority of Gerome's works were eventually gifted to major museums and very few reside in private hands.

Dated: 1895

Canvas: 32 1/2" high x 29" wide
Frame: 38" high x 34 1/2" wide

Bernheim Jeune & Fils, Inc.
Schnittjer (sold, Parke Bernet Galleries, Inc., NY., March 19, 1942, lot 360)
C.B. Squires (acquired at the above sale)
John Morrin, New York (sold, Parke Bernet Galleries, Inc., N.Y. , April 25, 1968, lot 264)
Wade Seacrest
Anonymous (sold, Parke Bernet, Los Angeles, November 13-14, 1972, lot 51, illustrated)
Forbes Magazine Collection, New York
Private collection

Jean-Leon Gerome Paris Photographs, Gerome, Oeuvres, Cabinet des Etampes, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Malcolm Preston, "Pedulum Swings Back to an Era of Realism", Newsday, November 3, 1974
William Scale, Nineteenth Century, vol. III, no. 3, Autumn, 1977, Gilles Cugnier edition. Cover illustration.
Oeuvres de J. L. Gerome (Bibliotheque National, Paris), XXIV, 6, Catalogue de Vesoul, 1981, p. 81.
Margaret Kelly, Highlight from the Forbes Magazine Galleries, New York, 1985, p. 82 Gerald M. Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Leon Gerome, with a Catalogue Raissone, London, 1986, pp. 276-77, no. 427. Illustrated. Also illustrated in color on p. 145
Jane Davidson Reid, The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1800-1900s, New York 1993, vol. 2, p. 632
Gerald M. Ackerman Jean-Leon Gerome: Monographie revisee. Catalogue raissone mis a jour, Paris, 2000, p. 340, no. 427. Illustrated p. 341., no. 427.

New York, The Emily Love Gallery, Hofstra University, New York, Art Pompier: Anti Impressionism, 1974, no. 48 Illustrated

Select Artist's Museums:
Louvre Museum, Paris
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Brooklyn Museum, New York
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
National Gallery of London
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Art Institute of Chicago
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge
Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Painting by William Bouguereau

Collecting 19th Century Art

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Price: $985,000
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