The Fall of Phaeton

Artist: Hendrick Goltzius (Netherlandish, Mühlbracht 1558–1617 Haarlem)

Date: late 16th–early 17th century

Medium: Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white (slightly oxidized); brown ink framing lines; incised for transfer

Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 9 15/16 in. (16.5 x 25.3 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.376


Phaeton, who recklessly drove Apollo's chariot through the heavens, tumbles from the shattered vehicle toward the earth. Zeus holds high a thunderbolt as he puts an end to Phaeton's rampage. This is one of at least fifty-two designs Goltzius made for an engraved series of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The engravings for the series do not display the virtuosity of his autograph works and were no doubt made by members of his workshop.
The drawing exemplifies a chiaroscuro technique that Goltzius had perfected for print designs by 1588. It allowed him not only to communicate clearly to the engraver the passages of dark and light, but also to produce very finished drawings that were no doubt sold as individual works of art once they had served their purpose in the workshop.