Not as popular in art as her mother Nyx, Hemera (Greek Ἡμέρα) was her complement, being the personification of the Day. The Romans knew her as Dies, the Latin noun for day, but in neither of the classical traditions does she seem to have attracted a following or cult. Today her origin as the daughter of Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness) may seem strange, particularly as her brother was Aether (Brightness).
Hemera is seldom seen alone in visual art. Her most common setting is as Nyx’s infant.
Luca Giordano’s fresco of Charon’s Barque, Night and Morpheus (1684-86) in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence, Italy, features Nyx and her young children in the sky above the boatman Charon as he ferries the dead across to the Underworld.
As shown in the detail below, Nyx appears with a couple of owls on her head. The painting’s title claims that it is Morpheus rather than Erebus next to her, which is plausible from the fact that he appears to be in a deep sleep. There may be some confusion here, as it is Erebus who is normally associated with the Underworld, not Morpheus. Surrounding the couple is a dark blue cloak covered with the stars of the night sky.
Henry Fuseli left this etching of Night and Her Children Aither and Hemera unfinished. It may have been inspired by Giordano’s fresco.
Then in 1883-84, William-Adolphe Bouguereau depicted mother and daughter in a pair of paintings.
His portrait of Night (above) was completed first in 1883, and the following year came her daughter Hemera (below).
As with Nyx, Hemera has a well-known Norse counterpart in the male god Dagr.
Peter Nicolai Arbo’s portrait of Dagr (1874) shows the son of the god Dellingr, and rider of the bright-maned horse Skinfaxi. Together they bring day and its light to mankind, much in the way that Apollo’s sun chariot crossed the sky for the Mediterranean civilisations, only here it is a burning brand which makes the light.
For me, the finest painting of any personification of daytime is definitely not of Hemera, but pure fantasy on the part of Edward Robert Hughes.
Hughes is now probably best-known for a series of paintings which he made later in his career, showing ethereal females in fantasy flights across the sky, and related scenes. Wings of the Morning (1905) shows the arrival of day, but extends beyond the dawn as is usual for the Greek Eos or Roman Aurora, whom I will consider in a separate article.