Il tombe dans l'abîme, la tête en bas
(He falls, head-first, into the abyss)
Plate 17 of 24
This plate shows Redon developing a new motif in his imagery, the ascending chariot, which he would return to in his later work in colour (see his painting Le char d'Apollon (The Chariot of Apollo), from the Fitzwilliam's collection. Apollo was the Roman god of the sun. According to mythology, every day he would drive his chariot across the sky to give light to the world. This scene depicts the story of Apollo's son, Phaethon, taking the chariot, losing control, and being thrown down towards the earth.
As in later representations, Redon flattens the pictorial space. The fine lines of the chariot and horses occupy a perplexing space as they are flattened between the velvety expanse of black at the front of the picture plane, broken only by Phaethon's outstretched arm, and the smooth white beyond.