Skip to main content

After Michelangelo, Leda and the Swan

Key facts
Full title Leda and the Swan
Artist After Michelangelo
Artist dates 1475 - 1564
Date made after 1530
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 105.4 × 141 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Duke of Northumberland, 1838
Inventory number NG1868
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Leda and the Swan
After Michelangelo

This is an old copy, badly damaged in places, of a now lost painting that Michelangelo made for Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, in 1530. The Duke had recently received three mythological paintings from Titian, including the National Gallery’s Bacchus and Ariadne, so in accepting the commission Michelangelo was competing directly with Titian.

Here the Greek god Zeus in the form of a swan seduces Leda, Queen of Sparta. Her pose seems to derive from sarcophagus reliefs and gems, and is similar to that of Michelangelo’s marble Night (Medici Chapel, Florence) completed in 1531.

Titian’s Danäe (Capodimonte, Naples), in turn, appears to have been made in response to Michelangelo’s Leda. Where Michelangelo’s Leda seems akin to a hard-edged marble relief sculpture, Titian’s Danäe is meltingly voluptuous, emphasising colour and light. Michelangelo saw the Danäe in Rome in 1545, praising its colouring, naturalness and power to entrance but criticising the draughtsmanship.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo