The Fall of Phaeton
Peter Paul Rubens
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Width: 131.2 cmHeight: 98.4 cmDepth: 5.7 cm
Size: 3.84 MBFile type: JPEGWidth: 4096 pxHeight: 3054 px
About the Artwork
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), one of the greatest masters of the 17th century, painted this masterpiece as a young artist in Rome. Rubens depicted a moment of high drama in this popular Greek myth that was famously recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses (c. 8 AD). Phaeton, the Sun-god Apollo's son, had begged and begged his father to allow him to drive the Chariot of the Sun across the sky. After Apollo finally conceded, his worst fears were confirmed: the rash youth had neither the strength nor the experience to control the chariot and keep it on its regular course through the heavens. The horses bolted in an erratic pattern, so that Earth either froze because the Sun Chariot was too far away, or it was scorched by the Sun's heat. At left, the Horae, butterfly-winged female figures personifying the seasons, which represent the harmony and order of the universe, are reacting in terror as Earth below bursts into flame. Even the great astrological bands that arch through the heavens are disrupted. Outside the picture frame, Jupiter, the supreme god, has just unleashed a thunderbolt aimed at Phaeton in order to save the universe from complete destruction. As the chariot disintegrates and the horses tumble apart, Phaeton plunges to his death.
Date of creation1604

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