The French Romantic sculptor Feuchère was a friend of Baudelaire, Barye and Daumier. An ardent collector and a lover of Renaissance art, he refers in Leda and the Swan to little Italian bronzes and to the sensuality of Mannerism, Cellini in particular. He was inspired by Michelangelo’s famous painting of Leda, a work that disappeared long ago and is known only through copies. Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells the story of the woman who was seduced by Jupiter, in the shape of a swan, and who gave birth to Castor and Pollux, twins from a single egg.
This beautiful sculpture is perfectly suited to the Romantic movement, which described passion so well. Here, the erotic component is intensified by the rather unusual choice the sculptor made in depicting the act of love itself rather than the traditional scene of Leda being courted by the Swan. In fact, Michelangelo’s painting was destroyed because of its immodesty.