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Hero was one of the priestesses of the temple consecrated to Venus in Sestos, a city in Europe on the banks of the Hellespont. Leander lived at Abydos, in Asia, on the opposite side of the Strait. At a fête celebrated in honour of the goddess, Leander beheld Hero, who, in beauty, surpassed all her companions. From that moment he felt for her the most lively passion, which soon became mutual; but the ties by which she was devoted to the worship of the gods would only permit a secret union. Hero lighted every night a torch, which she placed on the top of a tower. Guided by this beacon, Leander was accustomed to swim across the sea by night, to visit his mistress, whom he left before break of day. This voyage was frequently successful; but, a violent tempest rising, Leander, for seven successive days, could not quit Abydos. The ardour of his passion not suffering him any longer to await the return of a calm, he committed himself to the agitated waves; when, his strength abandoning him, his body was found thrown by the billows on the shores of the Sestos. Hero wandering there, full of terror and inquietude, recognized her lover, whose death she determined not to survive, and immediately precipitated herself into the sea.

The moment chosen by the artist is that in which Hero discovers her lover extended upon the beach. The figures of this picture are about the natural size. It was exhibited some years since at the Louvre, where it met with considerable applause, from the simplicity of the composition and the propriety of its expressions.

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