Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
This painting is being used by the Bouwman's because of the "MAN BEHIND THE PLOW"
Bouwman means "Man behind the Plow" or "Farmer"

Painting is by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
(created around 1560)
The notable thing in this painting is the fact that the anecdote of Icarus’ pride disappears in the margins of the painting.

The attention is focused on the farmer with his plow, on the shepherd and his herd, on the harbor and the ships – on the economy, in fact. The real transformations are taking place in the society and a mythical hero such as Icarus has become marginal.

"Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" touches upon the Greek myth of the tragedy of Icarus. As we know, according to Ovid and Appolodorus, Icarus, son of Daedalus, took flight from imprisonment wearing the fragile wings his father had fashioned for him. Heedless of his father's warning to keep a middle course over the sea and avoid closeness with the sun, the soaring boy exultantly flew too close to the burning sun, which melted his wings so that Icarus hurtled to the sea and death. The death of Icarus, the poet tells us "According to Brueghel," took place in spring when the year was emerging in all its pageantry. The irony of the death of Icarus, who has always been an emblem for the poet's upward flight that ends in tragedy, is that his death goes unnoticed in the spring--a mere splash in the sea. The fear of all poets--that their passing will go "quite unnoticed"--is an old and pervasive theme. That Williams reiterates the theme is significant in the life of a poet who always felt the world had never fully recognized his accomplishments. From: "Modern American Poetry"

"The 'kind' of painting on which Bruegel concentrated was scenes from peasant life. He painted peasants merrymaking, feasting, and working, and so people have come to think of him as one of the Flemish peasants. This is a common mistake which we are apt to make about artists. We are often inclined to confuse their work with their person. We think of Dickens as a member of Mr. Pickwick's jolly circle, or of Jules Verne as a daring inventor and traveler. If Bruegel had been a peasant himself he could not have painted them as he did. He certainly was a townsman and his attitude towards the rustic life of the village was very likely similar to that of Shakespeare, for whom Quince the Carpenter and Bottom the Weaver were a species of 'clown'. It was the custom at that time to regard the country yokel as a figure of fun. I do not think that either Shakespeare or Bruegel accepted this custom out of snobbery, but in rustic life human nature was less disguised and covered up with a veneer of artificiality and convention than in the life and manners of the gentlemen [artists such as] Hilliard portrayed. Thus, when they wanted to show up the folly of humankind, playwrights and artists often took low life as their subject.

"One of the most perfect of Bruegel's human comedies is his famous picture of a country wedding.  (Peasant wedding c. 1568 Oil on wood 114 x 164 cm (45 x 64 1/2 in.) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Like most pictures, it loses a great deal in reproduction: all details become much smaller, and we must therefore look at it with double care. The feast takes place in a barn, with straw stacked up high in the background. The bride sits in front of a piece of blue cloth, with a kind of crown suspended over her head. She sits quietly, with folded hands and a grin of utter contentment on her stupid face. The old man in the chair and the woman beside her are probably her parents, while the man farther back, who is so busy gobbling his food with his spoon, may be the bridegroom. Most of the people at the table concentrate on eating and drinking, and we notice this is only the beginning. In the left-hand corner a man pours out beer - a good number of empty jugs are still in the basket - while two men with white aprons are carrying ten more platefuls of pie or porridge on an improvised tray. One of the guests passes the plates to the table. But much more is going on. There is the crowd in the background trying to get in; there are the musicians, one of them with a pathetic, forlorn and hungry look in his eyes, as he watches the food being carried past; there are the two outsiders at the corner of the table, the friar and the magistrate, engrossed in their own conversation; and there is the child in the foreground, who has got hold of a plate, and a feathered cap much too large for its little head, and who is completely absorbed in licking the delicious food - a picture of innocent greed. But what is even more admirable than all this wealth of anecdote, wit and observation, is the way in which Bruegel has organized his picture so that it does not look crowded or confusing.

Go To: Bouwman Page