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Between and Mortarboard


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The Death of Leander

Accession Number
1984/1.290

Title
The Death of Leander

Artist(s)
Giulio Carpioni

Object Creation Date
circa 1655

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

Dimensions
30 5/8 in. x 43 3/8 in. ( 77.8 cm x 110.1 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
With dramatic contrasts of light and dark and swirling brushwork, Giulio Caripioni depicted on this canvas the drowning of Leander, a young man who was the lover of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. Every night Leander would swim across the Hellespont, the strait connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea, to the tower where Hero lived. During one of his nightly crossings Leander was caught in a winter storm, evoked in the painting by the turbulent waters and malevolent sky. The wind extinguished the light that Hero always left at the top of the tower to guide her lover, and Leander without the light became lost and drowned. Four sea nymphs, accompanied by a merman and the sea god Poseidon in his chariot, have risen from the dark waves to mourn over Leander’s body, which they support in a white shroud. Their anguish over the dead lover foreshadows the impending sorrow and suicide of Hero, who waits anxiously on her tower in the distance.

Subject matter
This painting depicts the drowning of Leander, a young man who was the lover of a priestess of Aphrodite named Hero. Every night Leander would swim across the Hellespont, the strait connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea, to the tower where Hero lived so as to pass the hours with his beloved. A winter storm, evoked in the painting by the turbulent waters and stormy sky, caught Leander during one of his nightly crossings, and he drowned. Four sea nymphs, accompanied by a merman and Poseidon in his sea chariot, have risen from the dark waves to support Leander's body in a white shroud. Their mourning and anguish over the dead lover foreshadows the impending sorrow and suicide of Hero, who still waits on her tower visible in the distance.

Physical Description
In dark turbulent waters under a stormy sky four nude sea nymphs support the body of a long-haired man between them on a white shroud. The face of a man with kelp in his hair appears between two of the nymphs. On the right a bearded man with a trident in his right hand rides in a chariot fashioned from a seashell and pulled by two fished-tailed horses or hippocampi. Just visible in the distance behind the back of the rightmost nymph, a lofty tower rises above the waves.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
narrative painting

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
chariots (ancient vehicles)
deaths
mermaids
nymphs
oil paintings (visual works)
storms

12 Related Resources

Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Greco-Roman Mythology
(Part of 7 Learning Collections)
Greek Cultural Influence
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Grief and Mourning Rituals
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
The Divine Comedy
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
The Sea
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Translating Homer
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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