The Last Watch of Hero

Lord Frederic Leighton, 1830 - 1896

The Last Watch of Hero

Lord Frederic Leighton 1830 - 1896


Main piece: The young priestess Hero, dressed in pale pink flowing robes, stares anxiously out from her tower. She looks to the right with tearful wide eyes, her left arm raised and grasping the heavy purple-brown drapes to her side, the bottom of the fabric embroidered in gold. Her right arm is curved about her head, mostly covered in a black cloak which outlines her body and left arm. She stands framed in a window with columns on either side. The Death of Leander : Sepia-toned predella beneath The Last Watch of Hero, depicting a tempestuous sea crashing around a single black rock on the right, Leander's drowned body lying across it, face down, naked except for drapery across his lower body. The gilt frame has fluted pillars on either side with a border of rosette motifs along the top. The lower half containing the predella is topped on both sides with a large scroll feature with three smaller tiers of scroll below.

Display Label

Gallery text panel In Pursuit of Beauty Late Victorian Art and Design Improving the quality of British art and design had been a concern since the 1850s. The British Empire had expanded into new continents but it was the classical ideal of beauty, based on Ancient Greek and Roman culture that was still considered the model for serious art. The pursuit of beauty was a form of escapism from the mass-production of industrial Britain. As well as looking to the ancient world, artists and designers were delighted and inspired by the arts of Renaissance Italy, the Middle and Far East. Many of the paintings here feature a beautiful woman. Sometimes she is a passive, decorative form, but often she is a dark and brooding femme fatale, a symbol of seduction, deception and destruction. The 'fatal woman' may reflect late Victorian male fears as women campaigned for equal rights and new roles. The emphasis on colour, harmony and rhythm and simplifying the form of an object would become major concerns in the 20th century. They can be seen emerging here in the work of late Victorian artists and designers.

Object Name

The Last Watch of Hero

Creators Name

Lord Frederic Leighton

Date Created

1887 (exhib)


Canvas: 160.3cm x 91.7cm
Frame: 242.9cm x 152.4cm
Canvas (Predella): 33.6cm x 76.5cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G10] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 10
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© Manchester Art Gallery

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