FETTI, Domenico
(b. ca. 1589, Roma, d. 1623, Venezia)

Hero and Leander

Oil on wood, 42 x 96 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

According to legend, Leander, a youth of Abydos, a town on the Asian shore of the Hellespont, used to swim across the waters at night to Sestos on the opposite side to meet his lover Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. She would guide him by holding up a lighted torch. One stormy night Leander was drowned. Hero in her despair threw herself into the sea. The story is related in this form by the Greek poet Museus (4th-5th cent. A.D.). Ovid tells of the lovers, omitting their death. The theme is found in Italian and Netherlandish painting, especially of the 17th century: the drowned Oleander is borne away by Needs as Hero plunges to her death into the sea.