C16: Maiolica dish: Leda and the Swan
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© The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath
|Title||Maiolica dish: Leda and the Swan|
|Object type||In category: Ceramics » Dish|
|Place of origin||Europe » Southern Europe » Italy » Northern Italy » Northern Italy|
22.3 cm diameter
|Materials & techniques||
|Description||Round painted maiolica tazza with thin orange rim. Foot at base. Story of Leda and the Swan painted in orange, black, blue, green and pale oxides.|
|Marks and inscriptions||
The ancient myth of Leda and the Swan is included in Ovid’s Metamorphoses as one of the subjects depicted in Arachne’s weaving. According to legend, the Jupiter surveyed the mortal Leda from above, before transforming himself into a swan in order to seduce her. As a result of Jupiter and Leda’s union the offspring Helen of Troy and Pollox were produced. Leda is also said to have bore Castor and Clytemnestra simultaneously by her husband Tyndareus, the King of Sparta. This myth was an extremely popular tale in the Renaissance. The influential Lorenzo de’ Medici is said to have had both a Roman sarcophagus and an antique gem of the subject. It can be argued that due to the erotic overtones associated with the story, depictions of a discreet manner would have been deemed more acceptable than larger scale studies. Indeed, many paintings of Leda and the Swan were destroyed in this period on grounds of immorality and the subject remained largely confined to Italy and to a lesser extent France. The composition and elongated figure of this dish are probably derived from Michelangelo’s painting of the same subject made in 1530. Unusually, Leda is depicted fully clothed on this dish; a dish by Orazio Fontana in the Gardner Museum, Toronto has a strikingly similar composition but depicts Leda naked. Other examples in the Wallace Collection also show her naked.
By dressing Leda, the erotic nature of the story has been downplayed. Instead her importance is empasised as the mother of offspring who were central figures in ancient epic poetry and tragedy.
|Muse theme||The Art of Collecting
The History of the Holburne Collection » The Collection » Ceramics
|Provenance||Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793-1874); by whom bequeathed to Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882), by whom bequeathed to the Museum|