Salvador Dali 1961-On[Singles]
Leda and the Swan
Medium: Original Plaster
Leda and the Swan
Salvador Dali had a lifelong fascination with Greek mythology. Part of that came from the books he read, the art he admired, and the fantasy that guided his relentless quest to become the 20th century's greatest artist.
The story of Leda and the Swan always struck an especially responsive chord with him. Told in various versions, the myth finds Leda, wife of the king of Sparta, loved by the god Jupiter, who transformed himself into a swan and came to lie with her. As a consequence of their unlikely union, Leda bore the twins Castor and Pollux, who were hatched from eggs - and to some degree upon whom Dali patterned his and his wife Gala's life. There's plenty of film footage showing Dali and Gala bursting out of a large egg set on the seashore at Port Lligat, Spain.
Both eggs and swans have thus played distinct roles in Dali's art and even the couple's remarkable villa in Port Lligat, now a major tourist attraction and easily recognized for, among other things, the giant plaster eggs that dot much of the structure's surrealist architecture. Many Dali paintings feature eggs - often fried to symbolize the trenchant eyes of Gala, whose gaze was said to be able to pierce walls - or to represent the notion of birth, fertility and purity, as seen in religious works like The Madonna of Port Lligat.
His most famous oil painting featuring swans is, of course, the 1937 masterpiece, Swans Reflecting Elephants, though there were others that included the classically beautiful bird as well.
Moreover, one of Dali's most famous and revered paintings is Leda and the Swan of 1949, depicting the Greek myth and illustrating Dali's allegiance to Renaissance traditions in the strict mathematical structure of the painting, which gives it a rigorously classic sense of harmony and balance.
The original relief sculpture, Leda and the Swan, holds special importance because it was fashioned by the hand of Dali, intended as the modello for a series of Daum crystal sculptures. Unlike most of his other three-dimensional creations, which were executed by artisans based on Dali's designs (including a medallion of the same mythological theme), the present piece was actually fashioned by Dali's hands. This was a fairly rare enterprise for the Maestro; one other example was a bas relief he did on the theme of The Last Supper, whose wax mold was rendered by Dali's capable hands.
It would be inaccurate to say that Dali was well known as a sculptor. He was not. And that makes all the more tantalizing those instances, such as the present Leda and the Swan relief sculpture, where he set down his brushes and worked with his fingertips - still exhibiting the exquisite craftsmanship for which he was universally admired.