“Saturn Devouring His Son”

Francisco Goya, “Saturn Devouring His Son,” c. 1819-23. Oil on mural transferred to canvas.

Imagine walking into an old house called Quinta del Sordo (Villa of the Deaf Man), and all over the walls are dark figures, witches, imps, miscreants, and all sorts of mythological creatures who only lurk in the blackened corners of the world. That would have been the scene when the painter Goya, towards the end of his life decided to exercise his inner demons on the plastered walls of his Villa. One of Goya’s most notorious, of what is known as “the black paintings” shows a terrifying scene of the god Saturn, who was so afraid of being overthrown by one of his children, ate each one upon their birth. For me it is one of the most disturbing pieces of fine art out there and yet I can’t seem to pull my eyes away from it — especially the eyes! Here is a monster of a man (a “Titan” really) who is doing the unthinkable; but have you ever seen eyes so full of self awareness, or pain, of fear? He, in all his terror and strength is actually exposing to us his weak underbelly. I think What Goya was really trying to do is compare this fictional story to civilization – eat or be eaten – we are forced to confront ourselves – and that is what makes Goya so disturbingly brilliant! Happy Halloween everyone! (Original post to Instagram October 31, 2012.)

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