Pieter Thijs (Antwerp c. 1624-1677)
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Pieter Thijs (Antwerp c. 1624-1677)

Dædalus fixing wings onto the shoulders of Icarus

Details
Pieter Thijs (Antwerp c. 1624-1677)
Dædalus fixing wings onto the shoulders of Icarus
oil on canvas
62½ x 46 5/8 in. (158.8 x 118.5 cm.)
Provenance
with Martin B. Asscher, London; Christie's, London, 22 May 1953, lot 127, as Vandyck (7 gns. to Manchi[?]).
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Dr. Hans Vlieghe for confirming this attribution on the basis of photographs.

Daedalus was the legendary Greek craftsman whose very fame and skill led to his own imprisonment on the island of Crete by King Minos, together with his son, Icarus. To enable them to escape, Daedalus crafted wings of wax and feathers and instructed Icarus to follow him closely, and fly neither too high, nor too low. This painting captures this final moment of preparation for the escape, with the careful gaze of Daedalus contrasted with the upward gaze and outstretched arm of Icarus, who will disregard his father and fly too close to the sun. By so doing the wax melted and his wings fell off, and he plunged dramatically to his death, serving as a metaphor for the dangers of extremes and as an allusion to the risky quest of creative genius.

Pieter Thijs became a master in Antwerp's Guild of St. Luke in 1644 and from around 1647 worked for Archduke Leopold William in Brussels and the House of Orange in The Hague. He executed allegorical and mythological compositions, such as this, for both courts and was also active as a portrait painter. Later in his career Thijs concentrated mainly on religious compositions for the Antwerp religious community but also painted mythological scenes and portraits for individuals and the art trade in Antwerp. From the the beginning of his career, Thijs was greatly influenced by the later work of van Dyck. This may be related to the fact that his early patrons were rulers whose taste was formed by van Dyck's refined courtly style.

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