The gods in the heavens are in turmoil. Phaeton has taken Apollo’s sun chariot for a ride, but the horses are bolting and are pulling the chariot too close to the earth. The earth is becoming far too hot – rivers are drying up, plants are becoming scorched and people are overheating. Mother Earth, in the orange and green dress, begs the supreme god Zeus for mercy. The latter hurls a thunderbolt towards Phaeton to make him stop.
The German artist Hans Rottenhammer painted the scene on copper, an extremely smooth base that lends itself well to fine details and vivid colours.
lower left, on a stone: 1604 / H [?] O [?] Rottnh / F.
Diego Duarte, Antwerp, before 1676-1691 (492 guilders); (?) his nephew Manuel Levy Duarte, 1691; Jan van Beuningen, Amsterdam, 1716; his sale, Amsterdam, 13 May 1716 (Lugt 257), no. 3 (1,010 guilders); Johan van Schuylenburch, Haarlem; his sale, 20 September 1735 (Lugt 453), no. 34 (for 305 guilders to ‘Verlaar’); Steven Theroude Gallery; Johan Hendrik, Count van Wassenaer Obdam, The Hague, 1745; his sale, The Hague, 19 August 1750 (Lugt 736), no. 67 (1,510 guilders); Govert van Slingelandt, The Hague, 1750-1767; his widow, Agatha Huydecoper, The Hague, 1767-1768; Van Slingelandt sale, The Hague, 18 May 1768 (Lugt 1683), no. 17; the entire collection sold to Prince William V; Prince William V, The Hague, 1768-1795; confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum Central des Arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; Royal Picture Gallery, housed in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1816; transferred to the Mauritshuis, 1822