Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, 1962, oil, lead pencil and wax crayon on canvas.Estimate $35-55 million. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s will 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). 

Koji Inoue, International Director, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “Hidden from public view for over 25 years, we are thrilled to present one of Cy Twombly’s absolute masterpieces in Leda and the Swan, 1962. This is a remarkable painting that has been pursued by collectors for decades. Impregnated with paint passionately and poetically applied with the hand, brush and stick, Leda and the Swan, is one of the most vital canvases created during this transformative period in the artist’s career. Given its tremendous importance within the context of both Twombly’s oeuvre, and the canon of Post-War art, we are honored to have the opportunity to offer this work to the market after nearly thirty clandestine years. This is also a particularly exciting time for the Twombly market, given its overlap with the Centre Pompidou’s groundbreaking retrospective of the artist’s expansive career.” 

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 1960s. A 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. 

The auction record for Cy Twombly was set by Untitled (New York City), oil based house paint and wax crayon on canvas, 1968, which realized $70,530,000 in November 2015.