Oil on canvas, 30.5cm by 38cm.
The painting depicts the seduction of Leda by the god Zeus, disguised as a swan.
It is one of four small paintings by Maratta, bought by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700) whilst on the Grand Tour. See also PICs 238, 244 & 245.
It was first recorded at Burghley in the 1688 Inventory: ‘My lords closett…..2 peices a Lyda, a Ixion no frames by —‘.
The 1738 Burghley Inventory records: ‘The Dressing room… 4 small Pieces; Jupiter and Alcmene, Danäe and the Golden Shower. Leda and the Swan. Ixion and the Cloud,’ where they still hang.
In Rome Maratta was an apprentice in the studio of Andrea Saachi (1599-1661), a painter steeped in High Baroque Classicism, and with whom he formed a close friendship.
Maratta was also a noted portrait painter and painted many of the Grand Tourists during their time in Rome.
His work was much admired by the 5th Earl, who bought several of his paintings and who is said to have sat to Maratta for his portrait, though this sadly, is no longer extant.