Inspired by the Haarlem Mannerist Cornelis van Haarlem, Goltzius converts Phaeton’s body into an abstract whirligig tumbling toward the burning earth and placid waters below. The exaggerated muscles of back, hip, thigh and calf form a rippling contour as the doomed youth strains futilely against his terrible fate. Phaeton’s head, seen from the back, streams with flame-like tufts of hair recalling his failure to control the fiery chariot of the sun. Goltzius’s masterful engraving adds to Cornelis’ original design the effect of the vast vault of heaven and the great heights from which Phaeton falls. Goltzius engraves shallow lines that faintly register the distant landscape and tiny details of falling fragments and flailing steeds from Helios’s broken chariot.
Help us make our collections more accessible by providing keywords to describe this artwork. The BCMA uses the
Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus to
provide consistent keywords. Enter a keyword in the field below and you will be prompted with a list of possible matching AAT preferred terms.