The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statue of Leda and the Swan

Object Details


Statue of Leda and the Swan






Palatine Hill, Villa Magnani, Rome, Italy (Place Found)


1st century A.D.



Object Number:



132.1 × 83.5 × 52.1 cm (52 × 32 7/8 × 20 1/2 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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Object Description

Greek mythology tells the story of Leda, a queen of Sparta who caught the eye of Zeus, king of the gods. Zeus frequently had affairs with mortals, often disguising himself as an animal to overpower or deceive his victims. In seducing Leda, Zeus took the form of a swan, and here he is drawn into her lap while she holds up a sheltering cloak.

Found in 1775 in Rome, this statue is a first-century Roman copy of an earlier Greek statue from the 300s B.C. attributed to Timotheos. More than two dozen copies of this statue survive, attesting to the theme's popularity among the Romans. The contrast of the clinging, transparent drapery on Leda's torso, especially over her left breast, and the heavy folds of cloth bunched between her legs characterizes Timotheos's style. The statue both conceals and reveals the female body: a tension often found in sculpture of the 300s B.C., before actual female nudity became acceptable.

After its discovery, the statue was extensively restored and reworked. Both arms, most of the outstretched cloak, the swan's head, and the folds of cloth between Leda's legs are eighteenth-century restorations. The head, though ancient, is not original to this work, but comes from a statue of Venus.


Found: Palatine Hill, Villa Magnani, Rome, Italy (first recorded in Dallaway 1800)

1775 -

Abbot Paul Rancurel (Villa Magnani, Palatine Hill, Rome)

by 1776 - 1779

Gavin Hamilton, British, 1723 - 1798 (Rome, Italy), sold to William Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1779.

1779 - 1805

William Petty-Fitzmaurice, 2nd earl of Shelburne, 1st marquess of Lansdowne, 1737 - 1805 (Lansdowne House, London, England), acquired from his estate by his son, John Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1805.

1805 - 1809

John Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1765 - 1809 (Lansdowne House, London, England), by inheritance to his wife, Mary Arabella Petty, 1809.

1809 - 1810

Mary Arabella Petty, marchioness of Lansdowne, died 1833 (Lansdowne House, London, England), sold to her brother-in-law, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1810.

1810 - 1863

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd marquess of Lansdowne, 1780 - 1863 (Lansdowne House, London, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1863.

1863 - 1866

Henry Thomas Petty-Fitzmaurice, 4th Marquess of Lansdowne, British, 1816 - 1866, by inheritance to his heirs, 1866.

1866 - 1927

Henry Charles Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th marquess of Lansdowne, 1845 - 1927, by inheritance to his heirs, 1927.

1927 - 1936

Henry William Edmund Petty-Fitzmaurice, 6th marquess of Lansdowne, British, 1872 - 1936 (Bowood House, Wiltshire, England) [offered for sale, The celebrated collection of ancient marbles: Property of the most honourable the Marquess of Lansdowne, Christie's, March 5, 1930, lot 36, bought back into the Lansdowne Collection and transferred to Bowood House, Wiltshire, England.], by inheritance to his heirs, 1936.

1936 - 1944

Charles Hope Petty-Fitzmaurice, 7th Marquess of Lansdowne, British, 1917 - 1944 (Bowood House, Wiltshire, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1944.

1944 - 1951

George John Charles Mercer Nairne Petty-Fitzmaurice, 8th marquess of Lansdowne, 1912 - 1999 (Bowood House, Wiltshire, England), sold to J. Paul Getty through Spink & Son, Ltd., 1951.

1951 - 1970

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Sutton Place, Surrey, England), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1970.

Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004

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