Tintoretto’s Leda and the Swan is an oil on canvas painting created between 1550 and 1560. The work depicts the mythological coupling of Leda, Queen of Sparta, with Jupiter in the form of a swan. The painting raised doubts about its authenticity over time until restorations in 1988 and 1994 confirmed its authorship. Art historians have different ideas on the exact dating of this artwork, although they mostly locate it somewhere during the early-to-mid-1550s.
Leda and the Swan showcases various elements that made Tintoretto one of Venice’s leading artistic figures during his era. The composition sets a stark contrast between light and shadow that creates depth within intricate details like Leda’s hair or Jupiter’s wingspan. Tintoretto also opts for an unusual point-of-view by portraying Leda from behind while swiveling back over her shoulder towards Jupiter, generating anticipation to see what unfolds next.
William Butler Yeats based his poem ‘Leda and the Swan’ on Tintoretto’s artwork as both works evoke powerful imagery from Greek mythology – Yeats’ words describing “the terrible beauty” that results from such a union are echoed within Tintoretto’s brushstrokes depicting bodies entwined against a dark backdrop dominated by Jupiter-the-swan figure.