Roman Art: A Modern Survey of the Art of Imperial Rome

His wings unglued, Icarus falls toward the sea in this fresco in Pompeii’s House of Sacerdos Amandus. In Greek myth, Icarus is the son of Daedalus, who is commissioned by King Minos of Crete to construct the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, a monster that is half bull, half human. Minos later has Daedelus and Icarus thrown into this maze. To escape, Daedalus builds wings for himself and his son, but Icarus, in his enthusiasm, soars too close to the sun. The wax on his wings melts, and the boy plummets into the sea. The fresco painter captures Icarus (upper right) at the beginning of his fatal descent; only one of the women at lower left is aware of the impending tragedy. The artist also gives us a portrait of the Port of Pompeii, from which wine was shipped all over the Roman world in amphoras.