Minneapolis Institute of Arts World Myths and Legends in Art Art by Theme
View All Art Compare and Contrast
Art by Culture

Cassone (Storage Chest)


Cassone (Storage Chest)
Cassone (Storage Chest)
About 1600
Gift of F. W. Clifford Family

Key Ideas
Discussion Questions

Phaeton journeyed east to the sun god's grand royal palace. Helios welcomed his son and, to prove their bond, promised young Phaeton any favor he wished. He did not anticipate that the headstrong boy would ask for permission to drive his powerful chariot by himself for a day. Bound by his promise, Helios had to give in. Just before daybreak Phaeton donned his father's crown made of the sun's rays and stepped into the shining chariot. Sensing unfamiliar hands on the reins, the sun horses thundered off across the sky, veering far off their usual course.

Bernard Picart, Phaeton asks his Father Phoebus for the Sun's Chariot

Phaeton asks his Father Helios for the Sun's Chariot
Bernard Picart
18th century
Pen and brown ink with wash over black chalk
The David M. Daniels Fund

Listen to Story of Phaeton, 8:00 minute duration (1.8 MB AIFF)

Unrestrained, the horses headed through the northern constellations. Chaos followed. Warmed by the sun for the first time ever, the small and great bears became restless. The usually placid serpent became threatening and the plowman ran away, even though he was not used to moving quickly, because of the weight of his plow. The startled black scorpion prepared to sting Phaeton.

Panicked, Phaeton let go of the reigns and the chariot careened haphazardly through the sky. When it fell too close to the earth, scorching areas into desert, the earth pleaded for help. Zeus (zoose) came to the earth's rescue, hurling a mighty lightning bolt, which shattered the chariot into many pieces. Phaeton tumbled to his death in a river. Mourning for Phaeton, his sisters turned into poplar trees, from which their tears flowed and hardened into drops of amber.

Key Ideas Story Background Discussion Questions


Art by Culture | Art by Theme | View all Art | Compare & Contrast
Home | What is Myth? | Glossary | Further Reading | How to use this site | Downloadable Curriculum