W. H. Auden wrote “Musée des Beaux Arts” in December 1938 following a visit to the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (a.k.a. Belgium's Royal Museums of Fine Arts). The poem's speaker walks through a gallery, contemplating various paintings and admiring their ability to convey the “human position” towards suffering—that is, indifference. The poem is an example of ekphrasis: the speaker coolly describes the paintings, calling attention to figures carrying on with their lives in the face of violence and disaster. The speaker focuses specifically on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, in which Icarus, the mythical figure famous for flying too close to the sun and then drowning, appears only in the corner of the painting as a pair of legs sticking out from the water’s surface.