The Fall of Icarus
Long believed to be Pieter Bruegel’s original experts now speculate that the original was lost and this is a copy by one of his followers.
Taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Icarus was trapped in a labyrnith made for King Minos to imprison the deadly Minotaur. Daedalus, Icarus’s father and creator of the labyrinth, constructed wings made of feathers and wax to help him escape. As they are flying Icarus becomes overly confident in his abilities and ventures too close to the sun, despite his father’s warnings. The wax melts and Icarus falls to his death in the sea below.
In this landscape Icarus is visible in the bottom right corner. Only his leg and feathers are above the water. The farmer and shepherd are also in Metamorphoses though Bruegel portrays them in a different light. Ovid wrote that the farmer and shepherd were astonished and related the incident to the gods. Bruegel painted them as indifferent and still going on with their work.
Though titled after a tale from antiquity the main focus of The Fall is the landscape. Icarus is the last figure the audience sees, overshadowed by the brilliant seascape. This style had been recently established in the Netherlands but not yet spread throughout Europe.