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The Fall of Phaeton

Francesco di Simone Mosca, called Moschinoc. 1560

Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The mythological subject was narrated by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. Phaeton, son of the sun god Helios, asked to drive his father’s chariot. When Phaeton crashed the sun chariot, and the earth threatened to catch fire, Jupiter ensured that chariot and driver fell into the river Eridanus. Moschino’s presentation of the scene affords impressive proof of his mastery in the working of marble. Most of the figures are almost threedimensionally sculpted, and there is great variety in their postures. In particular, the physical clarity of the subtly affected female figures is eloquent testimony to Florentine disegno. In the sixteenth century, the tragic fate of Phaeton was taken as a moral paradigm. In his commentary on Dante’s Inferno, in which the figure of Phaeton appears on several occasions, the neo-Platonist author Cristoforo Landino issued a warning to fathers everywhere, not to grant every presumptuous wish of their sons.

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