The Fall of Phaeton

The subject of this painting is taken from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'(Book 2). Phoebus, god of the sun, was persuaded to allow his son, Phaeton, to drive his chariot. Phaeton quickly lost control of the horses and the chariot came too near the earth, setting it alight, destroying cities and forests and drying up rivers, springs and even the sea. To prevent heaven and earth from destruction, Jupiter hurled a thunderbolt at the chariot which smashed it to pieces, sending Phaeton tumbling to his death. The nymphs on the left look up, terror-stricken, and on the right the winged Heliades, Phoebus' daughters, mourn the death of their brother.

One of Liss's most striking works, 'The Fall of Phaeton' probably dates from around 1624, when the artist was living in Italy.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1595 - 1631
Full title
The Fall of Phaeton
Date made
about 1624
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
126.5 x 110.3 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number
Location in Gallery