French, 18th century, attributed to Jean Thierry (1669-1739)
- Leda and the Swan
- white marble
- Haut. 80 cm; height 31 1/2 in.
Jean Thierry presented his marble Leda and the Swan in 1717 as a morceau de réception at the Royal Academy (Louvre, inv.no.M.R. 2100). Leda's pose is inspired by the compositions of a Nymph with a Quiver and Nymph with a Dove by Nicolas Coustou (1658-1733) who was a strong influence on Thierry's early career at Versailles (Louvre, inv. No. MR 1799 And MR 1800). Our marble, adapting the morceau de réception, renders wonderfully the subtle handling of the surface, emphasizing the sensuality of this embrace. He transcribes magnificently the smooth skin enveloping Leda's voluptuous body and the movement of the drapery positioned to enhance her nudity. The naturalistic texture of the feathers, which Zeus has adorned to seduce her, contrasts with the velvety feel of her skin. The swan, a webbed foot resting on his conquest's left thigh, advances almost cautiously, his head turned towards Leda who, in a last impulse of modesty, feebly restrains him with her left hand.
Thierry's model perfectly reflects the popular contemporary fashion for a staged eroticism in the guise of mythological subjects and the theme appeared again in marble and bronzes of variable quality. The very fine treatment of the delicately polished surface of the present example merits an attribution to Jean Thierry.
J-R. Gaborit, Sculpture française II - Renaissance et Temps Modernes, musée du Louvre, Paris, 1998, p. 599.