Friday, November 18, 2011

Hero’s Lamps

Kate Kern Mundie, Hero's Lamps, oil on masonite, 14 x 12 inches


I have started a new series of paintings related to mythology.  This is an interior view with a still life of lamps in a cottage on the high bluffs on the Atlantic side of Cape Cod. However, as I painted it, I wondered if these lamps could have been Hero’s lamps for illuminating Leander’s way across the Hellespont. Is this the room after the lamps have been extinguished and Hero has thrown herself into the sea? Or are the lamps waiting to be lit in the evening expecting Leander to arrive?

If you are not familiar with the story:
Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, lived in a tower on one side of the Hellespont (Turkey's "Sea of Helles" now called the Dardanelles), and was courted by Leander who lived on the other side of the strait. Leander swims across the strait guided by Hero’s lamp in the tower. Leander persuades Hero to give up her virtue and their tryst continues nightly through the summer. A storm arises but Hero begs Leander to swim to her that night. The winds blow out Hero’s lamp and Leander loses his way in the stormy sea and is drowned.  On finding out that her lover has died, Hero jumps from her tower and is lost to the sea, too.

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