Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Bowdoin College Museum of Art Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Advanced Search



Frans Floris the Elder


The Fall of Phaeton

Creation Date

ca. 1555


16th century


5 1/8 in. x 4 1/4 in. (13 cm. x 10.8 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

Europe, Flemish

Medium and Support

brush and light brown ink over black chalk on paper

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III


Public Domain

Accession Number

Frans Floris popularized mythological subjects as a Northern Mannerist in Antwerp. He depicts the fateful downfall of Phaeton, son of the sun god Helios, who rashly begged to drive the chariot of the sun but quickly lost control of the fiery horses. As the veering chariot set both the sky and the earth afire, Jupiter tried to stop the destruction and struck Phaeton with a thunderbolt, sending him hurtling to his death. Floris’s drawing, in line with Italian Mannerist aesthetics, compresses both time and space. Two moments coexist: Jupiter astride his eagle prepares to fling his thunderbolt, while Phaeton already plunges to his death headfirst into billowing clouds, which signal the sky and the smoky earth below. Floris also crams all four horses, the broken chariot, Jupiter, his eagle, and Phaeton—gracefully and sinuously rendered—into the small oval field.

Keywords: mythological   nude(s)   figures (representations)   work on paper   master drawing   preparatory drawing  

Additional Images

Additional Image verso