Photograph of Helen O’Shea as Leda from the Ziegfeld production of Leda and the Swan, ca. 1920s. A rare vintage black and white photograph of a Ziegfeld Follies revue dancer, Helen O’Shea, nude save the large white swan. Posed on toe upon a columniatied tiered pedestal, she seductively caresses the swan. On the verso is the following handwritten inscription, “Miss Helen O’ Shea presenting her own original & classical dance interpretation of ‘Leda & the Swan’ taken from the famous Greek myth. More on this work
Leda, in Greek legend, usually believed to be the daughter of Thestius, king of Aetolia, and wife of Tyndareus, king of Lacedaemon. She was also believed to have been the mother (by Zeus, who had approached and seduced her in the form of a swan) of the other twin, Pollux, and of Helen, both of whom hatched from eggs. Variant legends gave divine parentage to both the twins and possibly also to Clytemnestra, with all three of them having hatched from the eggs of Leda, while yet other legends say that Leda bore the twins to her mortal husband, Tyndareus. Still other variants say that Leda may have hatched out Helen from an egg laid by the goddess Nemesis, who was similarly approached by Zeus in the form of a swan.The divine swan’s encounter with Leda was a subject depicted by both ancient Greek and Italian Renaissance artists; Leonardo da Vinci undertook a painting (now lost) of the theme, and Correggio’s Leda (c. 1530s) is a well-known treatment of the subject. More Leda and The Swan
Helen Shea was a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies. She was born sometime around 1900, and began dancing at the age of five. She danced in a number of school performances and amateur entertainment shows, and was discovered during one of these performances by Florenz Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld invited her to dance in the Ziegfeld Follies, and in October of 1920, she was billed twice in the program for a performance at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. In the winter of 1921-1922, Shea performed one of the title roles in Mary, Irene, and Sally in Philadelphia and New York, but returned to Follies soon after. It was around this time that she was first billed as Helen O’Shea. In July 1922, she was a principal dancer in Spice of 1922, and in August of 1923 she appeared in the Summer Edition Ziegfeld Follies, performing “the Inspiration”. Shea continued to appear in various touring shows until 1926. In 1925, she appeared in several shows in London. In June of 1926, Shea was a featured dancer in Ziegfeld’s American Review (later known as Ziegfeld Follies of 1926) in New York, and continued to dance in Ziegfeld’s works until his death in 1932. More on Helen Shea
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