Product Focus: The Fall of Phaeton

The Fall of Phaeton, by Rubens, is one of our most dynamic pocket squares, packed with action, and a variety of colour. Here we look into the work in more detail. We have several designs by Rubens, a true master, view the full collection here

The Myth

In a bid to prove to his friends that he was indeed the son of the god of the Sun, Helios, Phaeton went to his father who swore by the river Styx that he would give him anything to prove that he was indeed Phaeton's father. Phaeton insisted that he would like the chance to drive the Sun chariot for a single day, thus being able to prove his relationship. 

Despite many efforts to dissuade his son, Helios reluctantly handed over the reins of the chariot, giving the warning that not even Zeus, the king of the gods, would be able to control the four horses. Helios's horses sensed that the chariot was empty, or at least not being controlled by Helios himself, and soon were veering off their usual course. 

According to Ovid, the horses flew too close to the earth in Africa, scorching the ground, burning the vegetation, and turning the continent into a desert by drying up the rivers and lakes. At this point, Zeus stepped in to prevent any further damage, and cast a thunderbolt at the chariot, causing Phaeton to fall to earth and be killed in the process. 

The Composition

Painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1604/05, the painting shows the myth at the peak of the action. Just outside the painting, Zeus has just thrown a thunderbolt aimed at Phaeton in order to save the world from destruction. As the chariot collapses, and the horses are unleashed, Phaeton plunges to his death. To the left of the scene, the Horae, female figures who personify the seasons and time, and ultimately, the order of the world, react in terror as the world burns. 

The painting is 98 x 131 cm and can be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, USA where it has been since 1990. 

The Fall of Phaeton Rubens National Gallery of Art

Founder Insight

"I particularly love this pocket square, not only for the vibrant colours, but also as it has such an interesting story behind it. I've always appreciated the dynamic style and energy that Rubens brings to his works and this painting in particular exhibits this. This square provides a brilliant contrast against a dark jacket and the vibrant yellows also make it a perfect square with a light linen jacket in summer.”

Simon Cranston, Co-founder

The Artist

Rubens self portrait

Rubens (1577-1640) was an artist and diplomat from the Duchy of Brabant, which is now located in Belgium, but at the time was in the Netherlands. Most of Rubens' work is based around Christian and classical history, and his baroque style has resulted him in being considered one of the most influential Dutch artists of the Flemish Baroque era. By focussing on movement, colour and drama of his works, he created hugely moving pieces that were destined for altarpieces, as well as producing a large number of portraits and landscapes. His works are hugely valuable, with a sketch of a man sold at Sotheby's for over $8.2m in 2019.

Complete the look 

What Makes Our Pocket Squares Special?

1. We believe that 40cm is the minimum size for a high quality pocket square. Any smaller and it will slide down inside your pocket with any movement of your jacket, while it limits the number of folds you can achieve as there is not enough volume to hold it in place. It goes without saying we would never advocate any form of pocket square holder. All our pocket squares are either 42cm x 42cm or 40cm x 40cm.

The Fall of Phaeton Pocket Square Fold

2. We use the finest mulberry silk with our silk and wool/silk pocket squares. The quality of the fabric can be seen in the texture and the level of detail and vibrancy of the finished product. All our pocket squares are printed in Macclesfield, England, an area renowned for silk printing for the past 200 years.

The Fall of Phaeton Pocket Square

3. We take the utmost care in printing our pocket squares, which results in truly remarkable levels of detail. Faces, objects and colours are sharp and well defined to give a truly stunning finish. We also take exceptional care with the colour bleed, so the print is almost as crisp on the back as it is on the front, allowing for an unlimited number of folds.

The Fall of Phaeton Pocket Square

4. The art of hand rolling pocket squares is a unique craft and truly makes each piece individual and unique. We feel that the precision and care taken by our skilled artisans gives each square its own unique character, finish and feel. To create the finest rolled hems, the edge of the silk must be softy turned over with a handheld needle and then small stitches are inserted approximately one half to one centimetre apart around the edge, creating a supple yet prominent border.

The Fall of Phaeton Pocket Square