LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Oil on panel, 112 x 86 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome
In the inventories, the famous painting of Leda and the Swan was for three hundred years (until 1893) thought to be by Sodoma, or a copy by the latter. Its attribution is still doubtful, but from recent research into wills it is now thought to be an unfinished painting that was in Leonardo's house at the time of his death (1519) and inherited by his pupil Salai who reworked it. X-rays have revealed another composition beneath this one depicting Leda's four children (Castor, Pollux, Helen and Clytemnestra) emerging from the swan's eggs. Leda with her arms around the swan (Jupiter) in an elegant curving pose, her hair partially escaping from her plaits, set against the spacious river landscape, was most certainly conceived by Leonardo, but executed by different artists.