The scene takes place in a stylish interior. On the right sensual Leda is wearing only a pearl necklace, a precious bracelet on her wrist while her blond hair is styled on elaborated hairdo. The young lady is lying on a bed covered with green and red fabrics. She is caressing the swan, which is actually Jupiter in disguise trying to seduce her. The woman turns to her maid who is also young and elegant. On the left there is a duck inside a cage being teased by a cat. Behind the maid there’s a birdcage with parrot, while in the foreground a white dog barks at the swan.
The soft curves of the two women, particularly the naked Leda, resemble the works of Titian. The whiteness of her skin creates a contrast with the colors of the fabrics, which change their tones affected by the light. This is typical for Tintoretto, who often played with the contrasts of dark and light colors.
The composition is sophisticated and refined. The two women are presented in diagonal, elegant poses and their hairstyles and jewelry are full of fine details.
The work was donated to Uffizi on 30 April 1893 by Arturo De Noè Walker. In the 17th century it was a part of the Parisian collection of Cardinal Mazarin and in the 18th century it was owned by the Duke of Orléans until 1798. In 1831 it was bought to Willet collection in London by the Duke of Bridgewater, who sold it to Paul Norton in 1857 and then it was bought by De Noè Walker.
There is another canvas of the same subject in the Uffizi Gallery from the Contini Bonacossi collection (donated in 1989) recovered by Rodolfo Siviero after the 2nd World War (inv. 1890/9946). It is believed that the version, which is also cut on the left side, is a prototype of the version donated in 1893.
Jacopo Robusti was born in Venice in 1518. His nickname “Tintoretto” comes from his father who was a dyer.
He studied in Venice in the circle of Bonifacio de’ Pitati, Paris Bordone and Andrea Schiavone. Soon he grew an interest to the artistic culture of central Italy and mannerism which he found through engravings, prints and drawings. In fact, he never left Venice, the city he loved, except for a brief stay in Mantua in his senior years in 1580.
Tintoretto’s painting is influenced by Tuscan and Roman mannerism. His figures and compositions are often decentralized and he uses bold views and diagonal cuts. His colors are strong, iridescent and accentuated by bright lights with effects that illuminate the scene like a lightning. This is also reflected by the speed in which he used paint his works.
Some of his less dramatic works are Susanna and the Elders (1560, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) where he mixed the Venetian tradition in painting, based on colors and soft shapes like in the works of Giorgione and Titian, with the Florentine tradition that was strictly linked to drawing.
Tintoretto worked hard for the religious confraternities of Venice. For the Scuola Grande of San Marco he painted the Miracle of the Slave (1547-1548, Venice, Galleria dell’Accademia), Finding of the Body of St. Mark (1562, Milan, Brera) Stealing of the Body of St. Mark and Miracle of the Shipwreck (1567-68, Venice, Galleria dell’Accademia) where he was clearly inspired by the figures of Michelangelo, as they are represented in whirling movement and touched by sudden beams of light.
Between 1564 and 1587 he decorated the rooms of the Scuola di San Rocco: the Hotel (Christ before Pilate; Crucifixion, 1564-1566), the upper saloon (Stories of the Old and New Testament, Stories of Christ, 1576-1581) the hall downstairs (Stories of the Virgin, 1583-1587).
Tintoretto had many children. Marco, Domenico and Marietta became painters.
He died in Venice in 1594.
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them.
The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes.
The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family.
The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.
Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.
After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.
During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives.
In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.
The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.
In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.