Lady Lever Gallery artwork of the Month – March 2008
‘Leda and the Swan’, by Desiré Maurice Ferrary
About the artwork
We are told that, on the bank of the river Eurotas, the shape-shifting god Zeus, having taken the form of a swan, coupled with Leda, wife of the Spartan King Tyndareus. We are told also that, on the same night, Leda had relations with her husband. From these two unions – one natural, the other unnatural – she bore two sets of twins: Castor and Clytemnestra, owing their paternity to Tyndareus, Helen and Polydeuces owing theirs to the immortal Zeus.
Each pair of offspring hatched from an egg. The brothers became famous throughout Sparta: the mortal Castor as a soldier and tamer of horses, the immortal Polydeuces as a boxer. The sisters’ disastrous careers are perhaps better known: Helen’s abduction by Paris precipitating the twelve year Trojan War; Clytemnestra’s murderous vengeance on her husband, King Agamemnon, for the slaying of her daughter Iphigenia, initiating a sequence of violence culminating in her own death at the hands of her remaining children, Electra and Orestes. All this from the encounter of a woman and a swan beside the River Eurotas.
Free gallery talks on Tuesday 13 and Friday 28 March at 1pm, meet in the Main Hall.