Fresco Fragment with Woman and Swan

Unknown1st century

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

A scene from Greek mythology decorates this Roman fresco panel. A reclining, partially clothed woman reaches out with her right hand and caresses the neck of a swan, while she lifts her garment off her left shoulder, more fully exposing herself. In the myth of Leda and the swan, Zeus, the king of the gods, who often took an animal form for his extramarital affairs in order to avoid his wife's detection, seduces Leda, the queen of Sparta, in the form of a swan. This depiction of the scene is somewhat unusual in that Leda is shown as reclining rather than sitting, and Zeus appears rather unimpressive. Along with depictions of the other loves of Zeus, the erotic story of Leda and the swan was very popular in Roman art.

This panel formed only a small portion of an entire wall and room of painted decoration. The use of strong colors, such as this brilliant red panel set against the black background, was typical of Roman interior decoration in the first century A.D.

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  • Title: Fresco Fragment with Woman and Swan
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 1st century
  • Location Created: Boscoreale, Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: 49.5 x 62.5 x 3.5 cm (19 1/2 x 24 5/8 x 1 3/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Fresco
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Object Type: Fresco
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 73.AG.126
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Roman
  • Classification: Paintings