D.74 Leda and the Swan, after Michelangelo


D.74 Leda

c. 1538

London, Royal Academy, no. 156.

Fig.D.74b bw, head
Fig.D.74c bw, swan
Fig.D.74d bw, legs
Fig.D.74e bw, foot

Black chalk, 170.1 x 248.8, composed probably of sixteen sheets of paper, each c. 44 x c. 64, or of more sheets, some this size and others c. 44 x c. 32, depending on whether or not what could be vertical creases are instead edges of sheets of paper1; some tears and losses that have been repaired, with possibly some redrawing here and there and some abrasion; Franklin, 1988, 325, as fragile, and as showing traces of white heightening and several watermarks.

PROVENANCE: French Royal Collection? (see below); 1771, William Lock, the Elder (see below, Serie degli uomini).  William Lock, the Younger; presented to the Royal Academy in 1821.

Believing that this large drawing is by Rosso, it would in all probability have to be one of the “cartoons” mentioned in Vasari, 1568, II, 211 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 171): “…si trovarono anco fra le sue cose dopo, che [Rosso] fu morto due bellissimi cartoni, in uno de’quali è una Leda, che è cosa singolare…”  Cassiano del Pozzo (Pozzo-Muntz, 1886, 268-269; Kusenberg, 1931, 102, 201, n. 232) mentions having seen in the Galerie des Peintures at Fontainebleau on 14 August 1625 five works by Rosso, three of which he specifies as paintings, the fourth as a portrait, and the fifth as “una Leda col Cigno, fatta dal disegno di quella di Michel Angnolo.”  Not specified as a painting, but rather as a work made from Michelangelo’s “disegno” (drawing, cartoon, but also, perhaps, meaning simply design), this Leda and the Swan could be the “cartoon” mentioned by Vasari.  The inventories of the king’s pictures by Le Brun, in 1683, and by Houasse, in 1691, mention a drawing of Leda by Michelangelo “à la pierre noire sur du papier blanc” and measuring 165 x 222, according to Roy, 1923, 78; it was also inventoried sometime before 1710 as by Michelangelo with dimensions equivalent to 162.4 x 219.18.2  As Michelangelo’s cartoon is reported to have been sent back to Florence in the sixteenth century (see below) and, according to Bottari (Vasari-Bottari, 1759-1760, III, 245-246, n. 1), was apparently still there, in Casa Vecchietti, in 1760, the one owned by the French king in the seventeenth century could not have been his (but see below).  Hence it is possible that the king’s drawing was the same work that Pozzo saw at Fontainebleau in 1625.  However, the measurements of the Royal Academy drawing do not coincide with those of the drawing inventoried in the seventeenth century.  But the latter measurements need not be correct, for while the height is very close to that of the London drawing, the width is far less, indicating a dimension that may be too short for its height in relation to the proportions of Michelangelo’s image.  What has, however, to be recognized is that this series of references does not constitute a sure history of the “cartoon” that was found after Rosso’s death, nor a provenance for the work that was owned by Lock the Elder in London in 1771 and is now in the Royal Academy.  The source from which Lock obtained the cartoon he had does not seem to be known.

Some hesitation might be had in calling the Royal Academy drawing a cartoon when there is no other evidence that it was made to serve in the making of a painting, however much this would seem to be the case.


Serie degli uomini…, Florence, 1772, 48; the author of the essay on Michelangelo in this publication, a friend of the Englishman Ignaz Hugford, who made and provided the drawings from which the portraits in the book were made, states that Michelangelo’s original Leda cartoon, “che è nominata dal Vasari, dal Borghini, dal Bocchi, e da altri, e che esisteva in Casa dei Signori Vecchietti, è al presente in Londra posseduto dal Sig. Lock…”  This comment, published only eleven years after Bottari’s remark that Michelangelo’s cartoon was in the Casa Vecchietti, names the Royal Academy drawing as Michelangelo’s that was in Florence.  On stylistic grounds, the London drawing cannot be Michelangelo’s.  If it did come from Florence, it would mean that Vasari, who in 1568 (II, 743; Vasari-Milanesi, VII, 203) said that Michelangelo’s cartoon was owned by Bernardo Vecchietti, as well as all other writers thereafter through the middle of the eighteenth century, believed that the Royal Academy drawing was Michelangelo’s.  This is unlikely, especially in view of the fact that Ammannati’s small sculptured Leda, in the Museo Nazionale in Florence, is not based upon the drawing in London but upon some other image, which in all likelihood was Michelangelo’s cartoon.3  It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the author of the essay in the Serie degli uomini, while right to record that a Leda cartoon was then owned by Sig. Lock in London, perhaps as reported to him by Hugford, was wrong in his belief that it was the cartoon that was in the Casa Vecchietti.  It is not known what happened to Michelangelo’s cartoon.

Stendhal, 1817, II, 325, as Michelangelo’s, in Lock’s collection.

J.D. Passavant, Kunstreise durch England und Belgien, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1833, 33, as not by Michelangelo, according to Thode, and as at the Royal Academy.

Waagen, 1854, I, 351-352, as from the Casa Vecchietti and as once erroneously ascribed to Michelangelo, but rather an old copy of great merit of his cartoon.

Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, VII, 1881, 203, n. 1, stated that the cartoon owned by the Vecchietti was in Bottari’s time acquired by Lock and taken to London.

A. Michaelis, “Michelangelos Leda and ihr antikes Vorbild,” Strassburger Festgruss an Anton Springer, Berlin, 1885, 31-43.

Symonds, 1893, 433, as a copy after Michelangelo.

Thode, II, 1908, 314, 317, III, 1913, 260, no. 553, as Michelangelo’s cartoon owned by the Vecchietti.

Dorez, 1916, 469, mentions the opinion that it is by Michelangelo.

National Gallery Catalogue, London, 1920, 187, under no. 186, states that Michelangelo’s cartoon in Vasari’s time was owned by Bernardo Vecchietti, that in Bottari’s time, Lock acquired a cartoon of Leda and took it to London, and that the Royal Academy drawing has generally been accepted as Michelangelo’s.

Roy, 1923, 77-78 (1929, 133-134), as by Rosso and the cartoon by him found after his death, the picture in the National Gallery, London, as also by Rosso; Roy believes both were done before July 1531 from a drawing of Michelangelo’s image that Rosso had brought to France in 1530.

W.T. Whitley, Art in England 1821-37, Cambridge, 1930, 16.

Kusenberg, 1931, 47, 137, 143, no. 54, 191, n. 101, as Rosso’s, executed in Florence in 1529-1530, and used later in France to paint the Leda in the National Gallery, London; also as the cartoon found at Rosso’s death.

Paintings and Sculpture in the Diploma & Gibson Galleries, London, 1931, 142, Fig.

Tolnay, III, 1948, 192-193, Fig. 280, seems to accept the attribution to Rosso, and, recapitulating Roy’s arguments, states that Rosso would have made a drawing in Italy of Michelangelo’s Leda, from which he painted his picture in the National Gallery in London before Michelangelo’s work arrived in France.

Papini, 1949, 224, as by Rosso.  Barocchi, 1950, 78-80, Fig. 53, as a copy of the Leda in the National Gallery, which she believes is by Rosso.

Goldscheider, 1951, Fig. 173, as by Rosso, c. 1531.

Adhémar, Dessins, 1954, 105, thought Vasari may have been wrong that there was a Leda cartoon by Rosso.

Wilde, 1957, 277-278, as a copy of Michelangelo’s cartoon, probably on the scale of the original, but not by Rosso.

Maison, 1960, 46, Fig. 15, 214, no. 16 (actually referring to Fig. 15), as a contemporary copy of Michelangelo’s cartoon, the attribution to Rosso not generally accepted.

Barocchi, in Vasari-Barocchi, Michelangelo, III, 1962, 1124-1125, reviews all the literature on it, repeating her earlier comment that the drawing is probably a copy of the picture in the National Gallery, London.

Gould, 1962, 98, as attributed to Michelangelo.

St. John Gore, in Treasures of the Royal Academy, London, 1963, 30-31, no. 70, as after Michelangelo, but its association with Rosso open to considerable doubt.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 224-226, II, Bk. II, 343-355, D.36, Bk. III, Fig. 98, as Rosso, c. 1532-1533.

Grossman, in Between Renaissance and Baroque, 1965, 102, no. 342, as after Michelangelo.

Béguin, 1966, 57, agreed with Wilde and Grossman.

Carroll, 1966, 176, n. 43, as probably made by Rosso around 1532-1533.

S.C. Hutchison, History of the Royal Academy, London, 1968, 97, as artist unknown.

St. John Gore in Royal Academy of Arts Bicentenary, 1768-1968, London, 1968, 253, no. 878.  Art into Art, 1971, 20, no. 79, as by an unknown artist, about 1530(?).

Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 181, 182, Fig., 183, no. 205, as Rosso, done early in his French period.

Cox-Rearick, 1972, 39-40, no. 47, as Rosso?, and believes it comes from the French Royal Collection and is the work that Del Pozzo saw in 1625.

Miles, 1973, 32, as not certainly by Rosso.

Evelina Borea, in Primato del disegno, 1980, 191-192, no. 454, as by Rosso, but cannot be determined if derived from Michelangelo’s painting or from his cartoon for it.

Lévêque, 1984, 71, 163, Fig., as Rosso, indicating that he painted a copy of Michelangelo’s picture.

Vasari-Darragon, 1984, 193, n. 52, the attribution to Rosso controversial.

McGovern, 1985, 187-188, Fig. 50, as Rosso, copied from Michelangelo’s lost picture.

Béguin, in Delay, 1987, 76, that Rosso had made a copy of Michelangelo’s Leda seen by Pozzo, but not known if it was a cartoon or a painting.

Carroll, 1987, 10, 30, 31, 318-327, no. 102, with Figs.

Béguin, 1988 (1989), 7, its attribution to Rosso debated.

Boorsch, 1988, as Rosso.

Rosand, 1988, 31, as by Rosso.

Franklin, 1989, 325, as stylistically not by Rosso.

Costamagna, 1991, 53, 60, n. 13, as Rosso’s cartoon mentioned by Vasari.

Miller, 1992, 112, commented on the difficulty of attributing cartoons, but that the Leda bears a plausible similarity to Rosso’s style.

Scalliérez, 1992, 14, 19, Fig. 13, as by Rosso and done in 1531.

Béguin, 1992 (1987), 91, n. 10, as without doubt not by Rosso.

Costamagna, 1994, 98, n. 7.

The only primary evidence that makes it possible to entertain the possibility that the large drawing in the Royal Academy is Rosso’s is Vasari’s remark that a cartoon by Rosso representing Leda was found among his possessions at the time of his death in November 1540.  Vasari had this information second hand and he makes no mention that this cartoon was based on Michelangelo’s image.  But as the London drawing cannot, on stylistic grounds, be Michelangelo’s, and as Rosso certainly knew Michelangelo’s image in France, it is reasonable to look at the surviving drawing with Rosso’s name in mind.  Such an investigation is made plausible by the quality of the drawing, which is worthy of Rosso, and by the fact that the drawing is not a literal copy after Michelangelo’s Leda, but shows modifications of it that are compatible with Rosso’s style.

Although it is on the basis of style that the drawing ultimately will be acceptable as Rosso’s, there is a certain amount of documentary evidence that should be reviewed to indicate where and when Rosso was in a position to make such a drawing after Michelangelo’s Leda.  But it should here be pointed out that the large drawing in London, which does not show the prolepsis – the birth of Castor and Pollux from Leda’s egg – and other details that are found in Bos’s engraving (Fig.Bos) of Michelangelo’s lost painting (see below), would seem to have been derived not from that painting but from the lost cartoon of Michelangelo’s picture.  All the known painted replicas of this image would also seem to be dependent upon that lost drawing.4

Michelangelo executed the Leda and the Swan, the cartoon and the painting, in Florence between November 1529 and 22 October 1530, working on them during the Siege of that city, which lasted until August of 1530.5  Rosso had fled from Arezzo to Borgo Sansepolcro in mid-September 1529 and there painted his Christ in Glory (P.20).  In mid-April 1530, he went, via Pesaro, to Venice.  From Venice he traveled to France and was in Paris by November 1530.  He could not have seen Michelangelo’s Leda before leaving Italy because the Siege of Florence would have prevented him from visiting the city, and by August he was in Venice, very probably already negotiating his move to France.  In 1531, Michelangelo gave the Leda and the cartoon for it to his pupil Antonio Mini so that he might sell them in France.6  Michelangelo also gave to him other cartoons, as well as drawings and “modegli,” and these, or some of them, together with the Leda painting, were packed in two cases and sent to France.  We know that the Leda cartoon also went to France because Vasari comments upon its return from there to Florence after Mini’s death in that country.  It is, however, not definitely known if it was in one of the two cases that were sent from Florence or whether Mini carried it himself on his trip north.  Mini himself set out for France with Benedetto del Bene in November 1531 and arrived in Lyons on 20 December.7  For two months they awaited the arrival of Michelangelo’s painting.  However, before its arrival, and before 11 February 1532, Mini and del Bene had already begun a copy of the Leda, which seems later to be the one referred to as by the latter alone.  But as this copy was not made from Michelangelo’s painting, it could have been and most likely was made from the cartoon, which would therefore have been in Lyons before the painting.  By 27 February 1532, the painting had arrived and Mini, while awaiting the opportunity to sell it to King Francis I, gave it to the banker Leonardo Spina for safekeeping.  Now everyone seems to have wanted a copy of the Leda.  On 9 March 1532, Mini wrote to Michelangelo that he had three Ledas to paint from the cartoon: “Sapiate che di quello cartone n’arò a fare 3 de le Lede…”  Before 8 May 1532, Mini made two trips to Paris in an attempt to see the king who was, however, away, and, Mini was told, would not return for a year.  He deposited “2 tavole” with Giuliano Buonaccorsi, the king’s treasurer of Province, in Paris.  These two pictures would have been Michelangelo’s painting and a copy made most likely from the cartoon, probably the copy by Benedetto del Bene.8  Shortly thereafter, Mini took these two pictures back, and, following a trip to Nantes where, it appears, he went, unsuccessfully, to see the king, he traveled once more to Paris in August 1532 and again left two pictures, Michelangelo’s and, as we know for sure, a copy by Benedetto del Bene, with Buonaccorsi.9  This copy may have been the same one deposited earlier.

It was after this time, but still within 1532, that Rosso’s name first appears in connection with these paintings.  Writing from Paris to Francesco Tedaldi in Lyons – Mini had borrowed half the value of Michelangelo’s painting from Tedaldi to finance the further pursuit of the selling of the picture – Mini states that “le Lede sieno inte [ite] cossi tra Rosso, M. Luigi [Alamanni] e sere Buonacorso” and speaks of the very close friendship between Rosso and Buonaccorsi.  Mini also says that Rosso had made a very large and very heavy frame (adornamento), which in the content of the letter must mean a frame for one of the Ledas (see L.38).  This would seem to have been a frame for Michelangelo’s original painting.

Mini tried to get the two pictures back from Buonaccorsi and on 6 August 1533 started legal proceedings to accomplish this.  But at the end of that year Mini died without having gotten the two paintings back.  After Mini’s death, Tedaldi and Mini’s uncle tried to have Michelangelo’s picture returned to them or to receive compensation for it, but to no avail.  Then in September 1536, Rosso was paid to have a painting of Leda shipped from the house of Buonaccorsi, in Paris presumably, to the king’s château at Fontainebleau.10  This Leda would seem to have been Michelangelo’s.  It was probably sent to Fontainebleau in the frame that Rosso had designed for it (L.38), which would account for his having been occupied with the transportation of the painting.  It is not known what happened to Benedetto del Bene’s copy, although it is just possible that one of the surviving painted copies, made from the Michelangelo cartoon, is his (but see below).  Michelangelo’s original painting may have survived until the middle of the seventeenth century, although Cassiano del Pozzo does not record it at Fontainebleau in 1625.

The last mention of Michelangelo’s cartoon in France is that in Mini’s letter of 9 March 1532 where he writes of having three Ledas to paint from it.  It is likely that he still had it at the time of his death.  Subsequently it returned to Florence where, according to Vasari in 1568, it was owned by Bernardo Vecchietti.  The earliest known moment that it was in Florence is between October 1540 and mid-July 1541 when Vasari made a painting from it.11  It could, however, have been there earlier.

As stated above, the large drawing in the Royal Academy is most probably derived from Michelangelo’s lost cartoon and not from Michelangelo’s lost painting.  This painting is known from Cornelius Bos’s reversed engraving (Fig.Bos), which shows several details – the prolepsis, Leda’s discarded dress, and the arrangement of her hair – that are not found in the London drawing.  These differences relate the drawing to the two sixteenth century painted replicas in London and in Venice of Michelangelo’s image, both of which seem ultimately also to be dependent upon Michelangelo’s cartoon and not upon the lost painting.12  What cannot be known is whether or not the Royal Academy drawing is directly derived from that lost cartoon.  The large drawing in London could have been made from a painting that was executed from the lost cartoon, although the drawing was almost certainly not done from either of the two surviving sixteenth century painted versions in London and Venice.  However, it might have been made from Benedetto del Bene’s copy if his is not one of the two sixteenth century Leda paintings mentioned above.13  Del Bene’s copy was left by Mini in Paris, first probably early in 1532, and then again in August of the same year.  From that moment on, Rosso could have known it until his death, as this copy was never returned to Mini or to Tedaldi or to Mini’s heirs after the latter’s death.  Rosso probably could not have known Michelangelo’s cartoon until after Mini’s death late in 1533.  But it is not at all certain that Rosso actually knew the cartoon at all.  There is no evidence that the cartoon was ever in Paris or at Fontainebleau and it could have left France not very long after Mini died.  It may, however, have still been in France at the time of Rosso’s death in November of 1540.

If Rosso did not know Michelangelo’s cartoon, then the large drawing in the Royal Academy would, as Rosso’s, have been done after a copy of the lost cartoon.  As Rosso most probably knew Del Bene’s painting done from Michelangelo’s cartoon, then it is quite likely that Rosso, knowing the cartoon only second hand, knew it from that painted copy.  Although Rosso would also have known Michelangelo’s painting, he may not have had access to it long enough to make the large and carefully executed London drawing, while Del Bene’s copy, not being so valuable and not having the kind of claims made on it as were being made on Michelangelo’s original work, could have been kept by Rosso in his studio.  In 1536 the original painting was still held by Buonaccorsi in Paris until the time that Rosso was paid to have it shipped to Fontainebleau in September of that year.

As Michelangelo’s cartoon is lost, as well as, it would seem, Benedetto del Bene’s painted version of it, the Royal Academy drawing has to be judged and evaluated by comparisons with Cornelius Bos’s reversed engraving of Michelangelo’s lost picture and with the painting in the National Gallery in London that appears to be the most faithful copy of Michelangelo’s cartoon.  These comparisons are fully made in Chapter IX and indicate the drawing’s particular stylistic character that identifies it closely with that of Rosso’s Pietà of around 1538 in the Louvre (Fig.P.23a).  What may be repeated here is how much the head of the Leda, with its squarish forms, so unlike what appears in the National Gallery painting and in Bos’s engraving, resembles the Magdalen’s in the Louvre painting, and how much Leda’s right foot looks like Christ’s in the same picture.  Also, the subtle elongation of the figure, which differentiates it from the figure of Leda in Bos’s engraving and in the London painting, relates it to the whole figure of Christ and to the entire design of the Louvre Pietà.  What needs to be more fully considered here is the draughtsmanship of the drawing.

Although the handling of the large drawing has a degree of breadth that would seem required by the size of the drawing, the draughtsmanship of it is not so special as to suggest that it would be totally unlike that of the smaller drawings done by the same artist.  The Royal Academy work can be quite easily compared with several chalk drawings by Rosso that are executed in a remarkably similar manner.

Rosso’s black chalk Head of a Woman of 1525-1527, in the Fogg Museum (Fig.D.20), has parallel shading quite like that in the large London drawing.  The comparison is especially close in the area around Leda’s ear and on the face of the head in the Fogg drawing.  The profile of this head, although not gone over to the extent that the contours in the Leda have been, is, nevertheless, modulated with the same kind of sensitivity as are the contours in the large drawing.  These same graphic characteristics are also found in Rosso’s red chalk drawings, such as the Roman St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor (Fig.D.13) and the very late Empedocles-St. Roch (Fig.D.80a).  It is true that these drawings have a slightly less smooth texture than that of the larger Leda, but it is quite easy to see that what appears in the latter is only a somewhat broader handling of the terms of these and many other smaller drawings by Rosso.  But the continuous and fine texture of the shadows in the large drawing can also be found in some of the passages of Rosso’s late red chalk Reclining Nude Woman in the British Museum (Fig.D.79a).  Given all of these similarities between the draughtsmanship of the Leda and that of several drawings by Rosso, it is only reasonable to recognize him as also the author of the London drawing.

Reflecting a kind of draughtsmanship used by Rosso over an extended period of time and, furthermore, having a breadth that is not precisely like that of his smaller drawings, the execution of the large drawing cannot be used to determine when it was done.  Other factors must be considered to date it.  As stated above, Rosso could not have known Michelangelo’s Leda to make a copy of it before he went to France in the autumn of 1530.  In February 1532, Michelangelo’s painting and the cartoon of it were with Mini, in Lyons.  Some time before early May 1532, and again in August of that year, Mini took the original painting and a copy of it to Paris, where he deposited them with Giuliano Buonaccorsi.  It is most likely that only after this latter date could Rosso have made his large drawing, most probably from the painted copy of it by Benedetto del Bene.  At this time, Rosso was working on the first compositions for the Gallery of Francis I, but none of the figures of these early designs are closely related to the Leda.  Even if the Nymph of Fontainebleau, engraved by Milan and Boyvin (Fig.E.103), reflects a knowledge of Michelangelo’s figure, it does not, either in its pose or in its elongated proportions, indicate a serious study of Michelangelo’s Leda.  It is only in the second phase of Ross’s activity in the gallery that Michelangelo’s influence is first strongly felt, in such works as the Enlightenment of Francis I (Fig.P.22, VII S a) and the Revenge of Nauplius (Fig.P.22, III N a).  But none of the figures that seem to have been done in this period suggest the Leda.  Where the specific and broadly effective study of this figure does appear is in the reclining nude woman in the lower left corner of the Death of Adonis wall (Fig.P.22, III S c) and in the figure of Adonis himself in the central fresco (Fig.P.22, III S a).  The pose of the reclining woman has several aspects in common with that of the Leda and the proportions of the figures are similar, although the reclining woman is slightly stockier.  The headdresses of these figures are also very much alike.  Adonis’s turning body is, aside from the difference of sex, not strikingly like Leda’s, but the positioning of his legs is similar to the placement of hers.  It is very likely, then, that Rosso’s Leda was not done before the last phase of his activity in the gallery, when the Death of Adonis wall was designed, that is, not before August 1536.  Other figures decorating this wall, as well as the nudes, of about the same time, flanking the Education of Achilles (Fig.P.22, II N a), also indicate an intensive study of Michelangelo’s art in this period.

But it may not be necessary to date Rosso’s Leda exactly at this time, although it was in this period that he first gave Michelangelo’s Leda serious attention.  There is an elegance in Rosso’s figure – in the alignment of her left breast, shoulder, and arm, and in the smoothly continuous and stretched arched forms and contours of her left leg – that mitigates the physical robustness of Michelangelo’s image and suggests a somewhat later date for the Royal Academy drawing.  Attenuated slightly beyond the proportions of Michelangelo’s figure and given a grace and a surface smoothness that were, apparently, not found in the lost original cartoon and painting of Leda, Rosso’s Leda is most closely related to his Pietà in the Louvre, probably done in 1538.  Rosso’s large drawing would seem to have been done about the same time.  However, it is possible that the Royal Academy drawing was executed first and that the making of it had its effect in shaping the subtly Michelangelesque character of the Louvre Pietà.

It is reasonable to assume that this drawing was made to be executed as a painting, but there is no record that one was ever made.  The Leda by Rosso that Cassiano del Pozzo saw at Fontainebleau in 1625 could have been the Royal Academy drawing.  As Rosso’s “cartoon” was found at his death along with another “cartoon” that was, apparently, never executed as a painting, it is possible to assume that both were “cartoons” that his death in November 1540 prevented him from executing as painted works.  This supposition gives some further indication that the Leda drawing is a late work by Rosso.  One is even inclined, therefore, to think that the Leda was done after 1538, and, hence, the Louvre Pietà as well.  But stylistically both appear to precede those works the style of which seems to represent a moment later than that of the Royal Academy drawing and the painting in the Louvre.


1 A Bolognese foglio reale measures about 44.5 x 61.5 (see Master Drawings, 30, 1, 1992, 3), indicating the Leda drawing is probably made-up of sixteen fogli.

2 From Cox-Rearick, 1972, 40, 55: Charles Le Brun, Inventaire des tableaux du Cabinet du Roy, 18 October 1683, Paris, Archives nationales, 0119648, no. 369; Inventaire des tableaux et dessins du Roy étant à la garde du sieur Houasse à Paris, 18 juin 1691, Paris, Archives nationales, 011964, no. 369.1; on the third inventory see Engerund, Fernand, Inventaire des Tableaux du Roy rédigé en 1709 et 1710 par Nicolas Bailly, Paris, 1899, 623, as “hault de 5 pieds; large de 6 pieds 9 pouces.”

3 Ammannati’s statue, done, according to Ciardi Dupré (1961, 15-16), between 1535 and 1540, or in the following decade, according to Micheletti (Primato del Disegno, 1980, 57-58, no. 22, Fig.), and which is in the same direction as Michelangelo’s original image, shows Leda’s hair and headdress more as they appear in Bos’s (reversed) engraving than as they look in the London drawing.  The statue presents the swan’s front wing as extending to the tip of Leda’s foot, as in the Royal Academy drawing, which goes back to Michelangelo’s cartoon, and not longer, as in the engraving.  Also, the statue shows generalized drapery, as in the London drawing, rather than a dress, as in the print derived from Michelangelo’s lost painting.  The appearance of all these details in the sculpture indicates that it was made from Michelangelo’s original cartoon and not from the drawing in London where Leda’s hair and headdress are different.

4 The absence of the prolepsis from all the painted copies is the most important factor in concluding that they are all ultimately dependent upon Michelangelo’s lost cartoon rather than upon the lost painting.  This detail could, of course, have simply been eliminated if the copies were made from the painting.  But the paintings in London, Dresden, and Venice (see Tolnay, III, 1948, 192-193, and Figs. 282-284; on the London picture see also n. 11) are also lacking the elaborate description of Leda’s dress that appears in Bos’s engraving.  This second omission strengthens the supposition that all the painted copies go back to the lost cartoon.  A fourth painted copy in Berlin (formerly? K. Schloss) is unknown to me but it also lacks the prolepsis (Thode, II, 1908, 319-320, suggested that it is by Vasari; see also Tolnay, III, 1948, 192, 193).

5 See Tolnay, III, 1948, 11, 190.  Florence surrendered on 12 August 1530.

6 On the history of Michelangelo’s Leda, the painting and the cartoon, see Vasari, 1558, II, 743 (Vasari-Milanesi, VII, 202-203); Thode, II, 1908, 311-324; Dorez, 1916, 448-470; Dorez, 1917, 193-196, 199-203; and Tolnay, III, 1948, 190-193; and especially Vasari-Barocchi, Michelangelo, III, 1962, 1101-1126.

7 On Lyons and its four annual international fairs, see Lucien Romier, “Lyons and Cosmopolitanism at the Beginning of the French Renaissance,” in French Humanism 1470-1600, ed. Werner L. Gunderheimer, London, 1969, 91-94.

8  Tolnay, III, 1948, 191, states that the two pictures that Mini took to Paris were Michelangelo’s original painting and the original cartoon.  But Mini’s letter of 8 May 1532 (Vasari-Barocchi, Michelangelo, III, 1962, 1113) specifically mentions that it was “2 tavole” that Mini took to Paris, indicating that both works were paintings.

9 See the memorandum of Francesco Tedaldi of 1 July 1540 (Vasari-Barocchi, Michelangelo, III, 1962, 1114).

10 The document is transcribed in P.22 under September 1536; see also Laborde, I, 1877, 104; Roy, 1923, 70; and Venturi, IX, 5, 198.

11 See Kallab, 1908, 68-69, no. 90, and Thode, 1908, 315.  See n. 3 above on a copy of the Leda in Berlin that could be by Vasari.

12 On these two paintings and the third sixteenth century painted copy in Berlin, see n. 3.  On the London painting, see also n. 13.

13 Mini speaks of the two pictures he took to Paris before 8 May 1532 (see n. 6) as “tavole,” apparently indicating that the copy, which may have been by Benedetto del Bene, as well as Michelangelo’s original painting, were panel paintings.  But Tedaldi in 1540 (see n. 7) mentions Benedetto del Bene’s picture that was left in Paris in August 1532 merely as “un’altra” Leda.  Hence, it cannot be known for sure whether Benedetto del Bene’s copy was on panel or on canvas, although if his was the one also left in Paris before early May 1532 then it is likely that it was a panel painting.  The copy in the National Gallery in London (Fig.National Gallery Leda), on which see below, is on canvas and therefore on purely technical grounds could possibly be eliminated as Benedetto’s picture.  The painting in the Museo Correr in Venice is on panel, but it seems to be a later picture.  The support of the picture in Berlin, which Thode thought might be by Vasari (see n. 3), is not known to me.  Although no certain conclusion can be reached on the authorship of these paintings, it is likely that none is by Benedetto del Bene.  Adhémar, Dessins, 1954, 105, believes the London painting to be by Rosso and thinks that Vasari may have been mistaken in his reference to a Leda cartoon by Rosso found at the time of his death.

The London painting, National Gallery, no. 1868, (canvas, 105 x 135, cut on all sides and remounted, very poor condition), has been attributed to Rosso; in addition to what appears under LITERATURE above, see: Fréderic Reiset, “Une visite aux musées de Londres,” GdBA, 1877, I, 246, as Michelangelo and from Fontainebleau; Dimier, 1904, 148, repeated Reiset; Kusenberg, 1935, as Rosso, 1530-1531; Delacre, 1938, 444, as Rosso; Dimier, 1942, 24, as by Rosso and from Fontainebleau.  Becherucci, 1944, 31-32 (1949, 31), as possibly Rosso, in 1536.  Adhémar, Dessins, 1954, 105, as Rosso; Gould, 1962, 97-99, as possibly from Fontainebleau and by Rosso; Erwin Panofsky, Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic, New York, 1969, 146, and Fig. 153, as Rosso.  Art into Art, 1971, 20, no. 81, as by an unknown artist of the second quarter of the sixteenth century.  Paul F. Watson, “Titian and Michelangelo. The Danaë of 1545-1546,” in Collaboration in Italian Renaissance Art, ed. by W. Stedman Sheard and J. T. Paoletti, New Haven-London, 1978, 246, 258, and Fig. 14.3, as Rosso; Evelina Borea, in Primato del disegno, 1980, 192, under no. 454, as generally considered an anonymous copy of Michelangelo’s painting or cartoon.  Bober and Rubenstein, 1986, 54, under no. 5, Fig. 5c, as Rosso?  M. Boeckle, in Zauber der Medusa, 1987, 87, under no. III, 19, as from the circle of Rosso.

Although Roy in 1923 tried to prove that this picture is by Rosso, neither its provenance nor any other documentary evidence supports this attribution.  The extremely poor condition of the work makes it unlikely that an attribution of it to a specific artist can be made.  But it has no stylistic features that can be identified as Rosso.  It is certainly not based on the Royal Academy drawing, where the proportions of the figure, the description of details, and the alignment of forms are different.

Dimier, 1925, 50, apparently attributed Louvre drawing, Inv. 815 (Fig.Paris, 815), to Rosso, as a study from life for his repetition of Michelangelo’s Leda (red chalk, 19.8 x 29.6; inscribed in ink in the lower right corner: Michelangelo).  Thode, II, 1908, 316, III, 1913, 226, no. 550, had given it to Michelangelo.  Roy, 1923, 78, believed the drawing was from the late seventeenth century.  Delacre, 1938, 445, Fig. 276, and Tolnay, III, 1948, 192, did not think it was by Michelangelo but also did not give it to Rosso.  Barocchi, 1950, 225-226, Fig. 223, did not accept Kusenberg’s attribution to Rosso.  Dussler, 1959, 297, no. 674, as neither by Michelangelo nor by Rosso.

This is a drawing that looks much, much finer in reproduction.  The only drawing by Rosso with which it could be compared is his Reclining Nude Woman in London (Fig.D.79a), but the similarities are not sufficiently close to recognize Rosso’s hand in the Louvre drawing.  The position of the legs and the head are different from what appears in the Royal Academy drawing.