landscape of icarus
Many look in detail at the careers of the Bruegel artists and there are certainly many other paintings besides Fall of Icarus which are well worth checking out. Bruegel the Elder was certainly the most talented artist to have come from this family and other notable works included Hunters in the Snow, sometimes referred to as Return of the Hunters. This classic painting covers another broad landscape at winter time, with Bruegel’s small characters returning from a small morning hunting expedition.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus has a slightly inaccurate balance between the character in the foreground and the background ships with the sizes not entirely what you would expect from such a skilled artist. Many believe however that this was a deliberate ploy by the artist to strengthen the power of the focal points of the work, and artistic license is an accepted element to many successful oil paintings right across art history.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (c. 1555) is an oil painting attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It shows the Greek mythological figure, Icarus, plunging into the sea in the lower right-hand corner.
If you look carefully, you can see his legs as he drowns, in the far distance of the painting. They are dwarfed by the horse’s rump …
The plowman, shepherd, and angler are mentioned in famous Ovid’s account of the legend, in which they are:
The painting contains these figures, but they seem to be oblivious to Icarus’s fate. This composition may be intended to illustrate the Flemish proverb:
Schadenfreude has been described as a “multi-determined emotion” 19 that is a universal component of human nature 15,20 The context of another’s misfortune often determines when Schadenfreude develops. It typically occurs when we experience strong emotional reactions such as envy, anger,or hatred towards a victim, whom we see as somehow deserving of or even being responsible for the misfortune. 16,21 In other words, Schadenfreude involves making a character judgment about the victim. 15 When a victim is seen as not having been responsible for his fate, he is more likely to receive our sympathy. 16 The media fosters the development of Schadenfreude in its focus on celebrities who cause their own self-destruction or politicians “of questionable virtue” who get caught in unsavory behavior and are thought to deserve the “comeuppance” they receive. 21 Though a common enough aspect of human nature, at the very extreme, says McNamee, Schadenfreude is a “culpable, indeed vicious, emotion…” 15 Nietzsche plummets farther down the continuum of human reactions into a realm of pathology: “To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more; this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty, human, all-too-human, principle…” 22
Sylvia R. Karasu
New York, USA
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is a painting in oil on canvas measuring 73.5 by 112 centimetres (28.9 in × 44.1 in) in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. It was long thought to be by the leading painter of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. However, following technical examinations in 1996 of the painting hanging in the Brussels museum that attribution is regarded as very doubtful, and the painting, perhaps painted in the 1560s, is now usually seen as a good early copy by an unknown artist of Bruegel’s lost original, perhaps from about 1558. According to the museum: “It is doubtful the execution is by Breugel the Elder, but the composition can be said with certainty to be his”, although recent technical research has re-opened the question.
Though the world landscape, a type of work with the title subject represented by small figures in the distance, was an established type in Early Netherlandish painting, pioneered by Joachim Patiner, to have a much larger unrelated “genre” figure in the foreground is original and represents something of a blow against the emerging hierarchy of genres. Other landscapes by Bruegel, for example The Hunters in the Snow (1565) and others in that series of paintings showing the seasons, show genre figures in a raised foreground, but not so large relative to the size of the image, nor with a subject from a “higher” class of painting in the background.