Leander, a youth from Abydos, a town on the Asian shore of the Hellespont, used to swim across the waters at night to Sestos on the opposite side to meet his lover Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. To guide him in darkness, she held up a torch. On a stormy night he drowned and she, in despair, threw herself in the sea.
Francis Cleyn (1582 - 1658) supplied the designs of the series to the Mortlake manufactory as his first works in the late 1630s and early 1640s. The designs are strongly influenced by the Italian school, where the German-born artist had trained prior to working at the Danish court. He was called to London by Charles I in 1624 and remained until his death. The designs for Hero and Leander continued to be used throughout the 17th century by Mortlake and were afterwards reproduced by the private workshops in Soho and Lambeth.