Wednesday 23 February 2011

What do you have to say on this?

Observe the picture carefully. It is a masterpiece by Pieter Bruegel. The painting is titled, "The Fall of Icarus." Assuming that you, worthy readers, know the myth of Icarus, I proceed to ask you a question. Why is this piece titled "The Fall of Icarus," when Icarus is not prominent in the painting?

I am never ceased to be wondered by the title of this painting. Now I wonder what you have to say on this.

Image: Internet


  1. Susan .. that's Icarus with his legs coming out of the water after he fell.
    as it depicts humankind's indifference to suffering by highlighting the ordinary events which continue to occur, despite the unobserved death of Icarus.

    yes I cheated a bit

  2. AG:

    But why is the peice titled "Fall of Icarus?"

  3. Perhaps it depicts the fact that the world has to continue with its daily activities, despite the occurrence of shocking tragedies.

  4. Bit hard to explain since I can't point with my finger but I'll give it a try.

    First enlarge the picture. The sun is very prominently in the picture and so is the water.
    On the left you'll see a rock with bushes and a door and I think that is the castle.
    Move to the right corner and you'll see one leg still in the air and one leg hitting the water. Icarus falling into the see.

    And therefore I think the title of this picture is The fall of Icarus.

    Have a lovely day.

  5. Vinay:

    It depicts the world has to continue. Agreed. But why is it titled "Fall of Icarus" when Icarus is not quite prominent in the picture. Leave the interpretation, what about the title. It is quite a puzzle. Hope you understand what I have to say.


    I can see Icarus' leg but it is not the important part of the picture. It is in in the background and not the foreground. I am trying to see why something of the background is the title. Get my point, dear one?

  6. May be here the real Icarus is us(the common man)....we go about our quest for posperity/heights unaware that we fly too close to the Sun!!

  7. I read about this painting on wikipedia becoz I, like you, am intrigued by why an event important enuff to be the title of the painting shud be relegated to a position of little prominence in the background. This is what wikipedia says about it, "landscape paintings with the title subject represented by small figures in the distance were an established type in Early Netherlandish painting, pioneered by Joachim Patiner."

    So perhaps, our Mr. Bruegel was creating a uniquely original variation of a trend. Also, wikipedia gives the name of the painting to be "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" instead of simply "The Fall of Icarus" which is an important distinction I shud think.

    Now, as to why such a strange and not-all-too-obvious practice shud have originated in the first place. Perhaps, it was the painter playing with his patrons..perhaps he wants them to scope out every tiny inch of his canvas in order to find the subject, thus, pushing them in the direction of consciously and curiously viewing every inch.

    Also, I wonder if Vinay has a point there..something as remarkable as a man flying in the sky with man-made wings occurs, something definitively tragic as this adventurous young inventor falling to his death occurs, and yet ships sail the sea and men walk along paths with their beasts of burden. The mundaneness of it all overpowers the sparkling vividness of the central incident. Our attention is drawn to the foreground which is beautiful but meaningless instead of the background of our lives where startling things happen.

    Dont we also live out the insignificant moments of our lives while history plays out in the background..we dont consider momentous events as defining our world, we are more careful and attentive to our own lives. Isnt it common practice to ask people, where were you when the Berlin wall came down? What were you doing when the Twin Towers fell? The answer wud probably be something really mundane. :)

    And to think a painting that highlights the mundane wud lead to such extraordinary chains of thought. :D

  8. sorry do not know the story
    but nice pic

  9. Susan have not heard about this... once again you have pushed me to think!
    Just by looking at the picture I am assuming it is the fall from heaven to earth!

  10. Intriguing yes - and the descriptions in comments above are valid - Well the title - artistic license? :)

  11. This might not provide an answer to your question but the post has definitely enriched me with some good information which otherwise I would not have known.

    Keep up the good work! :)

  12. Susan, I have no idea about this one... I haven't heard of it before... sorry! But the painting looks posh! Hehe! XOXOXO

  13. My 2-cents. A is right. The painter prolly wanted to highlight the indifference of the world despite the major event happening in Icarus' life (his fall and death). I don't think such indifference could be effectively highligted if the landscape was relegated to the background. It seems to say that anyone's personal circumstance is just a small ripple in the grander scheme of things.

  14. John:

    Wow! Whatte observation, John. Makes sense but I'm not quite convinced.


    or is it Dr. Karishma! The "trend" version seems quite acceptable. Your explanation, if I should add an adjective "beautiful" makes the whole point quite vivid. How well you have described this, Karishma.

  15. Savira:

    It is the fall from high skies to low earth.


    Thanks :)

  16. Yuvika:

    I am sure you have read the poem by Auden,connected to this.


    How nice to see you! Glad that you found some gyaan here. Hope you have been well.

  17. Jorie:



    Hmmmmm. This is what I have always thought.

  18. Susan

    In Bruegel's paintings, no matter how huge a slice of the world he may show, the activities of man (genre) remains the dominant theme of his work, which is what he is most noted for as a landscape painter. Having said that , and some comments already alluded to if you notice in the foreground the man and the plough that is dominate in this painting scene, which is the important clue I will not go into the story of the Icarus here for the painting is clear and easy to understand if you know the story as it is depicted in the painting but apart from that -- the painting is referring to the Flemish proverb ‘No plough stops because a man dies’ which is the main point. So once again If you look carefully in the lower right corner you will see Icarus' arm above the water, but everyone else is too busy to notice, or really care for that matter. Life goes on, eh. " No Plough stops because a man dies" was a common proverb during the painters time.Most people didn't read but they can follow the story through pictures and understand the reference.

    hope that helps,

    warm wishes,

  19. Joanny:

    That was brilliant, Joanny. Thanks. There are so many references and allusions which one needs to know. I'm glad that you wrote, Joanny.

    Much love :)

    Have a good week ahead.

  20. A bit hard to explain. hmmmm...
    It's absolutely strange.
    Isn't it?

    B xx

    P.S. No way; The arm of that man in the water couldn't be Icarus' arm; I think it would be too naif.



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