Hero and Leander Artist: Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)

ca. 1604

European Art

On view, 2nd floor, European Art

This painting illustrates the ancient Greek legend of Leander, who swam the Hellespont for midnight meetings with his beloved Hero, custodian of the doves and sparrows of Aphrodite. On a fatal stormy night, he perished in the waves, and the despairing Hero cast herself into the sea to join him in death. The picture is an important example of Rubens’s early work in Italy, where he developed his interest in classical and mythological subject matter.


Oil on canvas


95.9 × 128 cm, 31.75 kg (37 3/4 × 50 3/8 in., 70 lb.)

Credit Line

Gift of Susan Morse Hilles

Accession Number



17th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Seen in Italy (probably Mantua) by Giambattisto Marino, before 1615; (possibly) collection of the heirs of the Duke of Buckingham, York House, London, 1635; (possibly) sold by Troyanus de Magistris, Amsterdam, 8 October 1637 ("een schildery van Leander by Ribbens gedaen"; f. 424, to Rembrandt); (possibly) sold by Rembrandt to Lodewijk van Ludick, 1644 (fl. 530); (possibly) Jan Six (1618-1700) Collection, Amsterdam; Sir Peter Lely Collection, London, 1680; sale Sir Peter Lely, London, 18-21 April 1682, no. 53 (3 pieds 2 pouces by 4 pieds 2 1/4 pouces (102.6cm x 135.7cm; bought by Mr. Creed for 85£); Mr. Creed Collection, London; Johann Georg II, Elector of Saxony collection (acquired in Venice, 1684-1685); Dresden Gallery (permanent collection inventory of 1687, exhibited in the Dresdener Schloss in 1707, left the collection probably in mid-eighteenth century); Ernest Gotzkowsky Collection, Berlin (purchase between publication of collection catalogues dated 1757 and 1766- per Burton b. Fredericksen letter dated 18 July 2003); Counts Slinski Collection, Poland, before 1890; Eugen Sokolowski Collection, Uman; Mrs. Dagmar Carlsson Collection, Hova (Sweden); art market, London, 1958; acquired from Mathieson, London, 1962.
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

nudes (representations)



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