Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 632–634 | Cite as

Reflections on Breughel’s “Icarus” from a Kohutian Perspective

  • Robert L. Randall
Impressionistic Reporting

Pieter Breughel’s famous 1558 painting, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” is dominated by foreground figures: a farmer intently plowing, a shepherd distractedly tending sheep, a solitary fisherman peering deeply into the place his line has sunk. Prominent in the background is a handsome sailing ship, canvas full, making headway toward distant lands.

Without the work’s title, one’s visual inquiry would likely stop here; but a “Where’s Waldo” curiosity spurs further investigation. And eventually it is spied, off in a corner, hardly noticeable: two small, flailing bare legs just before they, too, sink beneath the waves with nothing but a tiny splash. The fall of Icarus. Flying too near the sun, his wing wax melted, the feathers dispersed, and Icarus became the icon of scorn for those claiming human pride as the cause of human downfalls. The wages of sin is death, and sin is hubris, and hubris is what humankind is guilty of.

Maybe the result of towering pride was Brueghel’s theme here....


Frequent Failure Moral Indignation Human Child Distant Land Sailing Ship 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Private PracticeElmhurstUSA

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