Pieter Bruegel senior is one of my favorite artists. He is considered one of the most important Dutch painters. Living through the sixteenth century, his primary inspirations were landscapes and the life of the everyday peasant. The painting I’m writing about today combines both of those inspirations as well as incorporating a famous Greek myth. The painting we have now is most likely a copy of a earlier work, the original most likely lost.
The myth of Dedalous and Icarus is one of the more prominent Green myths. The protagonists are a father and son who construct wings for themselves out of feathers and wax. The father warns the son not to go too close to the sun, because it is might melt away his wings. Those warnings fall in deff ears, with the youth soring high until his wings melt and he plummets into the sea.
Like many true works of art, it sprouts inspiration and new creations. Two poets Auden and William Carlos WilliamsWilliam Carlos Williams both wrote a poem inspired by the painting.
The usual interpretation of the painting says that the peasent ignored young Icarus, showing ruthless lack of care for anything, but his daily chores. I find this to be quite unfair. The life of the average person today, then especially, was full of hardship, anxiety and bloody mixture of sweat and tears. For him to notice anything else would be almost a uberhuman act. Also, a illiterate peasent doesn’t have the skills nor knowledge to find out what this immediate problem is and why it deserves his attention or what effects it will have on him.
I side with the Belgian proverb,, The peasant plows on,,. Much of what happens in the world is presented to us as important, even essential for our well-being or future. Most often that isn’t the case. The news use stories and headlines that are unlikely, something that wouldn’t happen to the average person on the average day. It wouldnt be news if it was something that could happen to you and me today. So don’t worry about the global crisis. Like the peasent in the painting, just plow on, your own battle awaits.
P. S. I’m sorry Susan, I couldn’t resist.