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image S50


Plaquette, ‘The fall of Phaeton’

Late 15th or early 16th century


Bronze with a black patina

Diameter: 17.8cm

Museum number: S50

Curatorial note

This small Italian bronze depicts the Greek myth of Phaeton, son of Helios, the sun god, whose attempt to drive his father’s chariot ended in disaster when he set fire to the earth and plumeted into the River Po. The myth was recounted by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato inTimaeus and by the Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses.

The story is shown as a composition of four plunging horses, with Phaeton falling headlong in the midst of the group, out of a shattered chariot, In the background, left and right, are hills with trees.

See Seymour de Ricci The Gustave Dreyfus Collection: Reliefs and Plaquettes (1931), 193, No. 189. Ricci mentions other examples in the British Museum, V&A, Oxford (Ashmolean). Louvre, Berlin, Brescia (with broad borders) and Florence. In the British Museum is an example of the 2nd state with an architectural instead of a landscape background (BM: OA.76). Also in the BM is an upright rectangular plaquette with the same composition extended and in high relief (BM: 1915,1216.129). Also see V&A catalogue of Italian Plaquettes, 1924, p. 33 and references.

These plaques are generally attributed to Moderno.

Associated objects

S51, displayed on same board
S69, displayed on same board

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk