Landscape with the fall of Icarus.

By Nicole Renee


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is an illustration of the Greek myth that tells the story of the death of Daedalus's son Icarus.

Daedalus was a brilliant inventor who created a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur for King Minos of Crete. The next part of the myth is unclear as stories vary. Some say that the two were imprisoned only after Daedalus told, Ariadne, the Princess of Crete the secret of how to escape the labyrinth. In other versions, they were imprisoned long before the route out of the labyrinth was revealed to Ariadne.

In either case, Ariadne passed on the secret of the labyrinth to Theseus and he was able to slay the Minotaur while navigating his way out of the labyrinth thereby enraging King Minos.

King Minos controlled all of the ships and the roads from Crete. Determined to escape with Icarus, Daedalus knew that the only way out of Crete was by using the wind.1 He used feathers from birds that would perch on the tower to craft two pairs of wings that were held together by string and wax. Daedalus instructed his son to not fly to close to the sun as it would melt his wings or to close to the sea for the water would soak his wings and cause him to drown. Daedalus and Icarus launched from the tower thus making a successful escape.

The pair flew high over Crete and passed the surrounding islands. Disregarding his father's warnings Icarus began soaring towards the heavens which melted the wax that held his wings together. Icarus cried out for help as he plummeted towards his death. The wings were dislodged from his body and the boy drowned at sea. Daedalus searched for his missing son and found his body by the feathers that were sprinkled over the ocean. Daedalus buried the body of his son and then named the island where he was buried Icaria.

Daedalus continued on flying and eventually landed in Sicily. It was there that he built a temple to the god Apollo. Daedalus left his wings in Apollo's temple and never flew again.

For years 'Landscape with the fall of Icarus' was credited to famous Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but after it was dispelled that he is in fact not the creator the painting now remains without an accredited artist. The work has been sourced to approximately 1558.

In the center of the painting you can see the plowman steering his plow. Below him on the cliff the Shepard is tending his flock while gazing into the distance. In the bottom right it looks as though the fisherman just cast a line into the water. Ships are sailing from the city's harbor. No one within the painting pays any mind to Icarus as he meets his death by drowning. That's because we're all not as important as we think we are. We make massive mistakes, we ruin relationships, and we die. Mistakes and missteps are eventually forgotten and we all move on towards the inevitable end of our life wherein we have to be accountable for only ourselves.

  1. Daedalus hated Crete
    And his long exile there, but the sea held him.
    “Though Minos blocks escape by land or water,”
    Daedalus said, “surely the sky is open,
    And that’s the way we’ll go. Minos’ dominion
    Does not include the air.” - Translation from Ovid's Metamorphoses []

3 Responses to “Landscape with the fall of Icarus.”

  1. Diana Coman says:

    "That's because we're all not as important as we think we are." - while this is generally true indeed, how does it follow from the "No one within the painting pays any mind" though? That people rarely actually notice what's important even as it happens right under their nose, sure. Or that those around us never are actually all that interested in what anyone other than themselves are up to, perhaps. But the importance is not given by "how many people are looking at me."

    Note that Icarus is the only one in there who even *has* a name at all and moreover, the painting is still called "with the fall of icarus" not "with a shepherd", nor "with a fisherman" not even "with various people".

    • nicoleci says:

      Note that Icarus is the only one in there who even *has* a name at all and moreover, the painting is still called "with the fall of icarus" not "with a shepherd", nor "with a fisherman" not even "with various people"

      Ty. Interesting point that I overlooked.

    • The sheer beauty of this Saturday, September the 21st comment, to be immediately followed by its lulz downstream...

      How about it bimbo, do people rarely notice what's important through a thick blanket of their own self-infatuation with their own irrelevancy ?

      Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.

      That's the important part, not oh hurr durr time flies. amur-amore, that's the thing.

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