Sunday, 24 October 2010


The Lament for Icarus, Herbert Charles Draper, 1898

This sumptuous Victorian painting illustrates the Greek legend of Icarus. He was the son of inventor Daedalus and together with his father was imprisoned by King Minos. In order to escape, they collected feathers which they stuck together with wax into the form of wings, which they used to fly from the palace roof. But Icarus, being a dumb youth, got over-excited and flew too close to the sun - despite his father's cries of warning - and when the wax melted in the heat, Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

The myth has always been popular with artists - it is of course used as a metaphor for human recklessness and hubris. Draper's picture shows his corpse being mourned by the sea nymphs, which gave him a chance to paint some female nudes (strikingly pale) contrasting with a bronzed supine hero. All rather beautiful.

Here's Lord Leighton's version (1869):

And a more modern vision:

WHAT AM I THINKING OF? I almost forgot my favourite Icarus picture of all!


Jo said...

Nice! Especially all the dark skin and pale boobs contrast :)

Danielle said...

ha..very nice..that painting ( the first one) was actually always one of my fav classical paintings back whne i was in school...i still have a book about mythology with it in it....

Janine Ashbless said...

Now that's what I calll a school eduction, Danielle :-)
The Draper painting only came to my attention recently - I'm not sure how I managed to miss it. It's a classsic of mythological eyecandy, with something for everyone.