Lot 62
  • 62

French, 18th century, attributed to Jean Thierry (1669-1739)

50,000 - 70,000 EUR
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  • Leda and the Swan
  • white marble
  • Haut. 80 cm; height 31 1/2  in.


Exhibited in 1990 with Joana Barnes, at Grosvenor House, London


F. Souchal, French sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries, Londres 1981, pp. 309-310.

Catalogue Note

Popular since Antiquity, the first representations of Leda and the Swan are found in Greek mosaics and in Roman marble groups. Amongst the most famous Renaissance depictions are drawings from a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1506-08) which show a standing Leda embracing the swan’s neck whilst he spreads his wing around her hips. From this union, were born the sons Castor and Pollux, and the daughters, Helen and Clytemnestra.

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.

Related literature:
J-R. Gaborit, Sculpture française II - Renaissance et Temps Modernes, musée du Louvre, Paris, 1998, p. 599.