Leda and the swan

Classical Period
Late 5th century B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 037; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 107 (additional published references).


Overall: 88.5 x 53 x 31 cm (34 13/16 x 20 7/8 x 12 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, from the Greek island of Paros

Not On View


The Ancient World



Leda springs up to protect the swan, which she clasps to her side with her right arm, while her left was raised against the eagle’s attack. A thick-soled sandal is on the left foot, straps being indicated by paint. Her sudden movement caused the Doric chiton, worn with a deep overfold and open on the right side, to become unclasped on the right shoulder and slip down below the breast. The whole of the figure’s right side is exposed. Vigorous motion is achieved by the disordered costume, by the prominence of the nude right leg, and by the heavy folds of drapery sweeping back from the left knee. Leda guards the swan from the pursuing eagle, unaware of the trick played by Zeus.
The missing parts include: Leda’s head, right hand, left arm, right leg from above the knee, part of the left foot; the lower part of the garment on the left side and the base; also the head, neck, and tail of the swan. Several folds of the drapery have been damaged; a portion of drapery at the back has been broken off, and the surface of the break has been roughly worked over. The preservation of the surface is good, except for some corrosion of the drapery covering the left breast and the left thigh, and on the breast of the swan. The patina is very light yellow.

Scientific Analysis:

University of South Florida Lab No. 8401: Isotope ratios - delta13C +5.0 / delta18O -3.4,

Attribution - Paros 1. Justification - medium grain, C and O isotopes, Attic style


By date unknown: Farnese Collection; by 1808: seen in the Farnese Palace at Caprarola near Rome; by date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren; January 19, 1904: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 74,100.00 (this figure is the total price for MFA 04.6-04.37)

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund