Jacques Chalom des Cordes will include this work in his forthcoming Van Dongen catalogue critique being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
In the summer of 1922, Van Dongen moved to the elegant hôtel-particulier at 5, rue Juliette-Lamber with his mistress, Léo Jacob, known as Léo Jasmy or Jasmy La Dogaresse. The artist decorated the entire mansion, painting the walls of the vast rooms deep blue, terracotta, green and gray, furnishing each with his own paintings or murals. La chute des anges hung prominently in the artist's dining room (fig. 1); the walls were lacquered in red, the grand marble fireplace flanked by portraits of Adam and Eve, and the floor covered with a deep purple carpet. There was also a very large salon on the first floor which "Van Dongen designed as a permanent gallery for his work. For a few months every year, 'from Easter to Whitsun and beyond,' Van Dongen held his 'open days' here, on Mondays at first, later on Tuesday. People plotted and schemed, said a journalist, to get hold of an invitation to one of these studio days" (A. Hopmans, All Eyes on Kees Van Dongen, Rotterdam, 2010, p. 152).
In the present painting, Van Dongen interprets the symbolic journey of Daedalus' son, Icarus, depicting the fall of the mythological adventurer. King Minos of Crete imprisoned the father and son in the Labyrinth to punish Daedalus for helping the hero Theseus kill the Minotaur, and to escape with Minos' daughter, Ariadne. Daedalus knew that Minos controlled all escape routes by land or sea, but Minos could not prevent an escape by flight. So Daedalus used his skills to build wings for himself and Icarus, using wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of birds' wings.
When their wings were ready, Daedalus warned Icarus to fly at a medium altitude. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax of his wings, and the sea could dampen the feathers if he flew too low.
Once they escaped Crete, Icarus became exhilarated by flight. Ignoring his father's warning, he flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy fell into the water and drowned. Daedalus looked down to see feathers floating in the waves, and realized what had happened. He buried his son on an island which would be called Icaria, and the sea into which Icarus had fallen would thenceforth be called the Icarian Sea.
(fig. 1) The present work as displayed in the dining room of Van Dongen's residence at 5, rue Juliette-Lamber, Paris.