Statue of Leda and the Swan

Object Details


Statue of Leda and the Swan






Roman Empire (Place created)
Villa Magnani, Palatine Hill, Rome, Italy (Place found)


1st century




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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Greek mythology tells the story of Leda, a mortal woman and queen of Sparta who caught the eye of Zeus, king of the gods. Zeus had frequent affairs with mortals and often disguised himself as an animal in order to avoid angry husbands and fathers, as well as his own wife, Hera. Zeus appeared to Leda in the form of a swan, and here 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.

1775 -

Abbot Paul Rancurel

- 1779

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

1779 - 1805

William Petty-Fitzmaurice, second earl of Shelburne, first 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, second marquess of Lansdowne, 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 -

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, third marquess of Lansdowne, 1780 - 1863 (Lansdowne House, London, England)

by 1930

Henry William Edmund Petty-Fitzmaurice, sixth 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.]

- 1951

Spink & Son, Ltd. (London, England), sold to J. Paul Getty, 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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A Catalogue of the Lansdowne Marbles (London, 1810) p. 6, no. 18.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) p. 152-53.

True, Marion. "Changing Approaches to Conservation," In History of Restoration of Ancient Stone Sculptures, Symposium at the J. Paul Getty Museum, October 25-27, 2001. Janet Burnett Grossmann, ed. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003) pp. 7-8, 10, pls. I, II A-B.

Sacks, David. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2005) p. 189, ill.

Risser, Erik, and Jens Daehner. "A Pouring Satyr from Castel Gandolfo: History and Conservation." In The Object in Context: Crossing Conservation Boundaries. David Saunders, Joyce H. Townsend and Sally Woodcock, eds. (London: IIC, 2006), 190-196. fig. 2.

Kyle, Jack. Festival of Swans (Mississippi: Quil Ridge Press, 2007) p. 86, photograph only.

Pafumi, Stefania. "Per la ricostruzione degli arredi scultorei del Palazzo dei Cesari sul Palatino: scavi e rinvenimenti dell'abate francese Paul Rancurel (1774-1777). BABesch 82 (2007), 207-225. p. 213-214, figs.11-12.

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