Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Icarus (1) Classical sculptures

Since my childhood and the reading of Mythology Tales, followed by classical studies and trips to Greece, Italy and Egypt, I always kept an interest towards mythology.
So today you will see a first post about Icarus & Daedalus sculptures, which will be followed by one or two posts about more recent & contemporary sculptures of them. I will add my version of it as well, done in blue alabaster.

Below is a bas-relief done in the 17th century, with a Cretan labyrinth, visible at the Musée Antoine Vivenel in Compiègne (France).

A short summary of the Legend (re-written/shortened from Wikipedia):

''Icarus' father Deaedalus, a very talented and remarkable Athenian craftsman, built the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete near his palace at Knossos to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster born of his wife and the Cretan bull. Minos imprisoned Daedalus himself in the labyrinth because he gave Minos's daughter, Ariadne, a ball of string in order to help Theseus, the enemy of Minos, to survive the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.

Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Daedalus tried his wings first, but before trying to escape the island, he warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea, but to follow his path of flight. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared into the sky, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which due to the heat melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms, and so Icarus fell into the sea in the area which today bears his name, the Icarian sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos.''

The fall of Icarus has been sculpted (and painted) numerous times. So I only suggest a very subjective selection of sculptures. Let start with a magnificent white marble sculpture achieved by Paul Ambroise Slodtz (1702-1758), the death of Icarus, displayed in the Louvre museum.

Here is a medallion from the 18th century, showing Icarus fall, the author is unknown. Located in the Louvre Museum collection in Paris. 

Below, the first masterpiece from the sculptor Canova, dated 1779, commissioned by Pisani, procurator of the Venetian republic. This 'group sculpture' in marble shows Icarus' father attaching the wings to his son's arms. This sculpture is visible at the Museo Correr in Venice (Italy).

Not too long after that, the French sculptor Henri Joseph Ruxthiel sculpted the same type of scene, a bas-relief showing Daedalus attaching the wings to Icarus' body. It is located in the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris.

To finish today's post, here is a bronze sculpture from Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854 – 1934), son of professional musicians, who was an English sculptor and also a goldsmith (he was passionate about bronze casting techniques). This is a bronze with a very dark patina, placed on an ebonised wood plinth.

This art piece representing Icarus was commissioned by Frederic Lord Leighton in 1882 after the exhibition of Perseus Arming at the Grosvenor Gallery. Lord Leighton, a painter and a sculptor, was already mentioned in this blog here, and had already painted the subject of Icarus, see below. 

National Gallery of Art