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Unconventionally and without direct succession, Fetti dismantles the colours
into contrasting shades. The result is an unreal and abstract compositional space.His characteristic painting style breaks away from the outlines and is flooded with light. Thus Fetti partly anticipated the achievements of the late-Baroque Venetian painters, e.g. Guardi. During a celebration in honour of Aphrodite, Leander became enamoured of Hero, who, however, had devoted her life to serving the goddess of love as a priestess. Thus they had to keep their love secret. Leander, who lived in Abydos on the other side of the Hellespont (today’s Dardanelles), swam across the dangerous strait every night, guided by a light that Hero put in the window of her tower. When a storm extinguished the fire one night, the youth lost his bearings and drowned. Hero found his corpse washed ashore the following morning, and in despair she flung herself from her tower into the sea. The scene of Hero mourning her lover is moved into the foreground, while Fetti depicts the tragic fate of the heroine on the right. Domenico Fetti was court painter to Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga of Mantua, who had probably met the artist in Rome. In 1621 at the latest, the painter travelled to Venice for the second time. Upon his return he fell out with the Gonzaga, and Fetti moved back to Venice, never to return to Mantua. Along with two other works (KHM, GG, Inv. Nos. 172, 7722), the present painting was among the last by the artist, who died prematurely. It is possible that this series was commissioned by a Venetian client and conceived as decoration for a piece of furniture or wall panelling. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010

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