Artwork Data




Jan Steen





Artwork Location


Circusplein, Den Haag

City district


GPS data

52.110997377822, 4.2830814067459 View on map

Artwork Description


Icarus is one of the most tragic characters in classical mythology. He falls victim to his youthful hubris and his pursuit of the higher things. The result is a death blow. The Groningen sculptor Jan Steen sees it all in a slightly different light. He gives a positive twist to the reckless adventure of Icarus, who wanted to transcend earthly life with homemade wings.

Steen is a ballet enthusiast and admirer of choreographer Jiri Kylian. In his Icarus sculpture, he emphasises both the attempt to transcend earthly life and the fantasy of flight. In that perspective, his sculpture can be seen as a metaphor for the life that takes place in the Circus Theatre. There too, fantasy rules and performers and audience alike are daily engaged in transcending ordinary life to go on the road to the other, the higher and the unimaginable, even if only temporarily.

The parallels between Icarus' attempts to fly and dancers who break free from the earth during a ballet are portrayed as feathery. Steen has placed the almost puny figure of the winged 'Icarus' on a metre-high pedestal with a broad base that tapers to a narrow top. The pedestal seems to launch the mythological figure. Icarus' is carried by the pedestal, lifted up, released from the earth and parachuted into space. For artists, the stage is a springboard to success like the pedestal is for 'Icarus'.

For Steen, man and nature form a natural unity. Just as natural as movement and balance. His fascination with movement, dance and theatre is reflected in the way he works. Before Steen can capture movement and balance in an image, he wants to experience it first-hand. For this reason, his images often begin with a performance.