Leda, angels, swans, tigers and disquieting puppeteers in the work of Michael Parkes

Although I will never try to post the numerous works of art, representing the myth of Leda and the Swan, that my sister and I have been chasing, collecting and inventorying since long ago –there are too many!–, sometimes a fine new find triggers a new post; just like now.

Michael Parkes (born in 1944 in Sikeston, Missouri, US) is a drawer, a painter, a sculptor, and a colour lithographer. Not all of his prolific production seems to me truly interesting (in great part it is too commercially oriented, repetitive and self-complacent, and I see also some very direct –but not made explicit– “loans” from Edward McCartan that I consider abusive (*)); anyway there is a number of works I do like much. Among these, I have selected five to show now on this blog; all of them belong to Parkes’ long-lasting series inspired in Leda, the phony swan, the eggs eventually laid, the conflicts between innocence and ardour, ingenuity and deception… and, in short, in all the mesmerizing eroticism of the old myth.

Parkes’ personal additions to the familiar scenario are tigers, the angelic swan-like wings that many of his ‘Ledas’ (also, sometimes, the grotesque puppeteers themselves) display, and the rather allusive bracelets, figuring a snake, that they use to wear. I do not buy much the idea of relating Leda with Lilith (or Eva), but I think it is fair to expose it. Indirectly relating the Puppeteer-Zeus with the Biblical God is quite more obvious, and of course, nothing new.

(For those not yet familiarized with the myth of Leda, as told by Ovid two thousand years ago, you may find a short description in the first post I am linking below the illustrations, near the bottom.)

1- Puppet Master

[I have not found any relevant data about the date and size of this painting, not even on the artist’s official website and any related site. It looks to me like an oil (on wood?)]

Puppet Master - M. Parkes (3) adj2


2- Several Ledas, winged and unwinged

Hour of the Gods_1990_oil and pencil adj1
Hour of the Gods (1990 – oil and pencil, size unkw.)

almost fallen angels 1 - 2 adj4
Almost Fallen Angels 1 & 2 (date unkw. – colour stone lithographs, 17.75 x 12.5 in)


Other posts by Ariel and I about Leda and the Swan in visual arts:

The ardent acceptance of Leda – or maybe her rape

The ardent acceptance of Leda – [an alternative view with fairy’s eyes*]

Three versions of Leda, a homage to early Renaissance and a moonlit departure


(*) – Just compare Edward McCartan’s bronze statue “Diana and Hound” from 1920, with Michael Parkes’ several versions of “Goddess of the Hunt” from date unknown, but around the 1980-90s.

Of course, almost all works of art owe to tradition; the rest are just plagiarism. (And that’s the main reason why I do not show any of M. Parkes’ bronze sculptures inspired in Leda, even if they are attractive and excellently crafted. So, I frankly hope that nobody misunderstands me; I am not rejecting what this artist does –he is free to follow his way; and moreover I like much part of his work–; I just choose what I judge worthy.)   

To anyone interested in the artwork of Michael Parkes, this is his official website.


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8 thoughts on “Leda, angels, swans, tigers and disquieting puppeteers in the work of Michael Parkes

    1. Ha, ha !! Anyway, about trusting swans or not, my sister dreamt she was taken by a big blue bird -when she was just a kiddo :! -… and always explained she had learnt from that dream things she did not at all know or even guess. Memories from childhood may not be reliable, but who knows?… (I for one belived her.) Thanks dearly for the comment, Liz 🙂 Big hugs !!

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