So here is my second Ekphrasis, this time on Leda, by an unknown artist. It can be found on the second floor of the Galleria Borghese. It’s a beautiful building that also houses 4 Bernini statues, each more breath-taking than the last. My personal favorite is the statue of Apollo and Daphne. I sat in the room and stared at it for at least 20 minutes. It’s one of the most inspiring pieces of art I’ve seen so far.
But I digress. Here’s my ekphrasis:
Hanging on a wall in the Galleria Borghese is a painting of Leda embraced by a large white swan. The background has far less detail than the main characters; it is obvious this unknown artist wanted the attention on the foreground.
The swan, an abnormally large figure, stares up at Leda adoringly while she looks down upon her newborn sons Castor and Pollux. The expression on her face is similar to that of the Madonna’s when she is looking at baby Jesus – a slight smile and downturned eyes. Another egg, alluding to the set of twins Helen and Clytemnestra, is partially visible from behind some flower. However, for whatever reason, Leda is clearly focusing on her sons. Perhaps because they will carry the family name? Little does she know her daughter Helen will have a “face that launched a thousand ships.”
While Leda’s thick, muscular arms are still relatively “manly”, the depiction of her body shows artistic progress. Her legs and hips are shapely and the s-curve of her hips displays her feminine body. The swan’s bright white wing enveloping Leda’s right hip and thigh also highlights her curves.