Monday, September 20, 2010

Icarus Falling

If you're not familiar with it, the painting is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, by Pieter Brueghel. I just discovered it recently and it really captured my imagination.

If you click on it, you'll be able to see the detail.

Go ahead. Click it. I'll wait.

Did you notice the legs in the lower right hand corner? Sticking up out of the water?

Those legs are Icarus, plunging to his death. You remember Icarus? He and his father, Daedalus, needed to escape from the island of Crete, so Daedalus built wings from wax and feathers, so they could fly away. But despite warning from his father, headstrong young Icarus flew too close to the sun, and his wings melted.

Now look at the rest of the painting. Everyone is going about his daily life, unaware of the boy's destruction.

The shepherd is looking up, like maybe he heard something, but it's clear Icarus will disappear beneath the surface without the shepherd ever seeing him.

Sometimes I think this blindness to surrounding tragedy is all that makes life bearable.


  1. Thanks for describing this for me. But a headstrong young lad who wouldn’t listen to his father? Oh come on. We know that no such person has ever existed….

  2. Crystal clear. "this blindness to surrounding tragedy" encompasses my thoughts daily as I struggle for the legal tender and try to blend. Turning a blind eye toward confrontation is a learned talent.

  3. Crikey you never stop learning. Thanks. On a different note, what a think to leave the world. Might do a blog sometim,e on what I will leave . nought of importance, tha's for certain.

  4. Totally off point, but this reminds me of a pair of Nike "Icarus" sneakers I had when I was on the high school track team as a teenager. I wanted to know what 'Icarus' meant, so I looked it up, and learned he was a god of flight.

    See, I guess sports CAN teach you something about history.

  5. Hey! What about the guy on the edge..I think he is reaching down to throw Icarus a flotation device..or maybe a stick..or maybe he is going to jump in and save him at the last moment..WELL it could happen:)

  6. Good post. Do you know the poem by Auden which comments on the painting? The Musee des Beaux Arts. If not, you can read it here


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