Christie’s to announce Cy Twombly’s great clandestine masterpiece

Sunday, March 26, 2017
Christie’s to announce Cy Twombly’s great clandestine masterpiece

Christie’s is honored to offer Cy Twombly’s Leda and the Swan, 1962 as a highlight of its May 17 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

Christie’s to announce Cy Twombly’s great clandestine masterpiece

Christie’s is honored to offer Cy Twombly’s Leda and the Swan, 1962 as a highlight of its May 17 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. This unequivocal tour de force has resided within a private collection for over 25 years and has not been seen publicly in all that time. One of two large format masterpieces to emerge from this unbridled subject, Leda and the Swan’s heroic sister painting of the same title is among the most popular works on view within the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Never before at auction, the painting has only had two private owners and is completely fresh to the market (estimate $35-55million).

With its vigorous application of paint and affectionate use of the hand, Leda and the Swan is an apex example of the artist’s fusing of myth, eroticism and history. Revisiting the story of Leda’s seduction by the Greek god Zeus, or his Roman counterpart, Jupiter, in the form of a swan*, Twombly’s adaptation of this classical story inspired an increasingly baroque tendency that emerged in his work during the early 1960s, dramatically enriching the strongly tactile and sensual nature of his art. Throughout these paintings from the early 1960s, the artist not only arrives at, but fully executes some of the most empowering themes found throughout his oeuvre.

Leda and the Swan is part of a cycle of works that resulted from the explosive and highly physical release of passion, seduction and visceral energy that had defined Twombly’s Ferragosto paintings, which were executed throughout the hot summer months of 1961. Demonstrating this new, distinctly Baroque mix of eroticism and violence, Leda and the Swan exemplifies the “blood and foam” style that dominated the artist’s work until 1966.

The myth of “Leda and the Swan” is among dramatic and tumultuous themes in Twombly’s work of the early 1960sA magnum opus of the artist’s oeuvre, Leda and the Swan fully articulates Twombly’s desire to defeat tradition even as he engaged with it. Immersing himself in ancient Greek and Roman literature, Twombly demonstrates the breadth of the artist’s cultural immersion in his Mediterranean surroundings.

Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, 1962, oil, lead pencil and wax crayon on canvas

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Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Earshot, 2016

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Earshot, 2016


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