The Garden of the Hesperides is perhaps one of the most famous mythological paintings of Leighton. Three Hesperides, according to ancient Greek myth, guarded the apple tree with golden apples belonging to the goddess Hera. The apple tree grew in a magical garden on the edge of the world – where the heavenly chariot of the sun ended its daily journey. The Hesperides symbolized the colors of the sunset. Their names speak of this – Hesper, Egle and Eritheus.
A dragon named Ladon, depicted as a serpent by Leighton, helped carry the Hesperides’ service. Academic artists often made heroes of their canvases of mythological characters. But Leighton interprets the myth of the Hesperides, rather, as a symbolist. Academists usually turned their attention to the climax of the myth – the abduction of golden apples by Heracles. A completely different picture offers the viewer Leighton. There is not even a hint of dramatic events in this canvas.
We see before us a beautiful garden, we feel the warm breath of the wind, filled with the scent of flowers. On everything – a light touch of decadence. Hesperides poses are languid and sensual. It seems that they are shackled by bliss, that it is beyond their power to make any movement. The body of one of the Hesperides wraps snakes. But this detail is not at all frightening – on the contrary, she reports that the stage has even more sensuality.