In Greek mythology, Leander swam the Hellespont each evening to meet his lover, Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. She guided him by a lighted torch. One stormy night, the light blew out, and Leander was drowned. Hero flung herself into the sea after him. Here the brewing storm suggests the tragedy ahead.
Turner exhibited this painting in 1837, with his own verses re-telling the story. The painting was not well received. One critic called it ‘the dream of sick genius... what all that white has to do with the picture, it would puzzle anyone to find out’.