The subject of this drawing is taken from ancient Greek mythology. Leda, wife of the King of Sparta, is shown with the god Jupiter who has taken the form of a swan to seduce her. Helen (later Helen of Troy), Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux are seen hatching from the eggs at Leda's feet.

The skill and originality that separates Leonardo from his contemporaries is evident in this drawing. He uses curving, hatched lines to depict Leda's body, giving it three-dimensionality. Leonardo directs our eye through the narrative: the swan leans towards Leda, whose hand gestures to their children, hatching from eggs in the plants at her feet. The artist's spiralling pen strokes create added movement, as the newborns emerge, providing a dynamic sense of energy in the drawing.

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