Liverpool artwork of the day – Monday October 29 2007. ‘Leda and the Swan’ 1898- 1900 by Maurice Ferrary (1852 – 1904). Marble, green onyx and bronze, height 50.08cm at Lady Lever Gallery
This work illustrates the Greek myth in which Zeus, the king of the gods, seduces Leda after visiting her in the form of a swan. It is a topic that has fascinated artists for centuries. It has been illustrated by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Boucher, as well as writers and poets such as W. B. Yeats.
When this work was first exhibited at the 1898 Salon, the figure of Leda was made from ivory. At the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, where Lever bought the piece, the figure was marble. Like ‘Salammbo’, Ferrary’s other piece in the gallery, this work displays languid sensuality and dark eroticism.