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Henry Hugh Armstead RA, Studies for 'Hero and Leander'
Henry Hugh Armstead RA, Studies for 'Hero and Leander'

Studies for 'Hero and Leander', ca. 1875

Henry Hugh Armstead RA (1828 - 1905)

RA Collection: Art

These studies are preparatory drawings for Armstead's relief sculpture of 'Hero and Leander' (c. 1875, Tate Britain). In Greek myth, the two lovers lived in Abydos and Sestos, cities separated by the Hellespont gulf. As Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite, and therefore unable to marry, their relationship was clandestine. Each night Leander swam the gulf to see Hero, who lit a lamp to guide him across the water. However, one night the lamp blew out and he was drowned. The next day, Hero discovered the drowned body of Leander and threw herself into the sea in despair.

Armstead depicted Hero grieving over Leander's corpse, employing traditional Christian imagery in his depiction of the Greek tale. The poses of Hero and Leander, resemble a pietà in which the Virgin Mary is shown cradling the dead body of Christ after the Crucifixion. In the finished relief, the figure of Hero retains the same, solid triangular shape but she is a more dynamic presence, with her hair and drapery agitated by the wind she turns further to the left so that her face is seen in profile.

Object details

Studies for 'Hero and Leander'
ca. 1875
Object type
Pen and brown ink with white gouache over pencil on brown laid paper

233 mm x 381 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Dr. Hugh Wells Armstead 1932
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