“DAEDALUS AND ARIADNE”: portrayed by Peter Allemano and Helen Allemano
Concept conceived by Peter Allemano; developed and executed by David Vance; photo taken in Miami, Florida on 2/8/13 (© David Vance 2013).
Quite possibly, ours is the first-ever illustration of the clandestine meeting, in Greek mythology, between Daedalus and Ariadne. Both characters are famous and have dramatic histories, and both have been the subjects of illustrations by many artists, over the centuries. But neither David Vance nor I — nor a professor of art history who was asked for her assistance — could locate any prior art that depicted these two characters together, at this intersection of their respective lives.
Our illustration depicts Ariadne, the princess of Crete, successfully persuading the master Athenian craftsman Daedalus — who lives in exile in King Minos’s court — to become her ally in a scheme against her father. Daedalus must know that, by giving Ariadne the magic ball of twine, he is likely to suffer unhappy consequences. Indeed, he does: his own son, Icarus, winds up dead. But Daedalus enters into the scheme with Ariadne anyway.
Why? I have my own opinion. But instead of stating it, I prefer to invite you to gaze at the photo and see if you can determine, on your own, not only what these characters’ feelings and motives might be, but also what the dynamics of power might be in their relationship.
“DAEDALUS AND ICARUS”: portrayed by Peter Allemano and Andrew Aponick
Concept conceived by Peter Allemano; developed and executed by David Vance; photos taken in Miami, Florida on 12/11/11 (© David Vance 2011).
DEDICATION BY PETER AND ANDREW: Our representations of “Daedalus and Icarus” honor the memory of brothers Louis (“L.J.”) Knutson (1981 – 2010) and Jason Knutson (1986 – 2011) — fine young men whose lives ended far too early. Please honor their memory too with your generous support of the National Coalition For Men.
For behind-the-scenes photo highlights of the “Daedalus and Icarus” creative process, look here.
Please read my article on mainstream media representations of men and boys, published in New Male Studies. You can download the PDF file here.
* * * * *
The myth of “Daedalus and Icarus” has fascinated writers and artists for centuries, and it has been re-told and illustrated in a multitude of variations.
Daedalus was a master Athenian craftsman who lived in exile — with his beloved son Icarus — in Crete. When Daedalus fell out of favor with King Minos, father and son were imprisoned. Daedalus decided that he and Icarus had to leave Crete and get away from Minos, before he brought them harm. However, Minos controlled the sea around Crete and there was no route of escape there. Daedalus realized that the only way out was by air. To escape, Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus, fashioned with feathers held together with wax.
One of the most poignant accounts of what happened next is by Thomas Bullfinch (1796 – 1867):
When at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward, and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight he said, “Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be safe.”
While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last time. Then rising on his wings, he flew off, encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his wings.
As they flew the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, and the shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air.
They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air.
While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea which thenceforth was called by his name. His father cried, “Icarus, Icarus, where are you?” At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child.
Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.