Saturn Devouring His Son
|Saturn Devouring His Son|
|Spanish: Saturno devorando a su hijo|
|Medium||mixed media mural transferred to canvas|
|Dimensions||143.5 cm × 81.4 cm (56.5 in × 32.0 in)|
|Location||Museo del Prado, Madrid|
Saturn Devouring His Son is a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. It depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus (known as Saturn in Roman mythology), eating one of his offspring, after Gaea foretold a prophecy fearing that he would be overthrown by one of his children,[a] ate each one upon their birth. The work is one of the 14 so-called "black paintings" that Goya painted directly on the walls of his house sometime between 1819 and 1823. It was transferred to canvas after Goya's death and is now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
In 1819, Goya purchased a house on the banks of Manzanares near Madrid called Quinta del Sordo (Villa of the Deaf Man). It was a two-story house which was named after a previous occupant who had been deaf, although the name was fitting for Goya too, who had been left deaf after contracting a fever in 1792. Between 1819 and 1823, when he left the house to move to Bordeaux, Using mixed media, Goya produced a series of 14 paintings on the walls of the house.
Although he initially decorated the rooms of the house with more inspiring images, in time he painted over them all with the intensely haunting pictures known today as the Black Paintings. Created without commission for private display, these paintings may reflect the artist's state of mind late in a life that witnessed the violence of war and terror stoked by the Spanish Inquisition.[b]
Saturn Devouring His Son, which depicts the Titan Saturn consuming one of his children, was one of six works Goya painted in the dining room. According to Roman myth (inspired by the original Greek myth), Terra (Gaea) foretold that one of the sons of Saturn would overthrow him, just as he had overthrown his father, Caelus (Uranus). To prevent this, Saturn ate his children moments after each was born, eating the gods Vesta (Hestia), Ceres (Demeter), Juno (Hera), Pluto (Hades), and Neptune (Poseidon). His wife Ops (Rhea) eventually hid his sixth child and third son, Jupiter (Zeus), on the island of Crete, deceiving Saturn by offering a stone wrapped in swaddling in his place. Unlike the painting, the myths usually portray Saturn/Kronos swallowing his children, and later vomiting them up alive after swallowing the stone, rather than chewing them up as in the painting. Jupiter eventually supplanted his father just as the prophecy had predicted.
Goya never named the works he produced at Quinta del Sordo; the names were assigned by others after his death.
Composition and interpretations
|smARThistory - Goya's Saturn Devouring One of His Sons|
Goya depicts Saturn feasting upon one of his sons. His child's head and part of the left arm have already been consumed. The right arm has probably been eaten too, though it could be folded in front of the body and held in place by Saturn's thumbs. The Titan is on the point of taking another bite from the left arm; as he looms from the darkness, his mouth gapes and his eyes bulge widely. The only other brightness in the picture comes from the white flesh, the red blood of the corpse, and the white knuckles of Saturn as he digs his fingers into the back of the body.
Various interpretations of the meaning of the picture have been offered: the conflict between youth and old age, time as the devourer of all things, the wrath of God and an allegory of the situation in Spain, where the fatherland consumed its own children in wars and revolution. There have been explanations rooted in Goya's relationships with his own son, Xavier, the only of his six children to survive to adulthood, or with his live-in housekeeper and possible mistress, Leocadia Weiss; the sex of the body being consumed cannot be determined with certainty. If Goya made any notes on the picture, they have not survived; as he never intended the picture for public exhibition.
Goya may have been inspired by Peter Paul Rubens' 1636 picture of the same name. Rubens' painting, also in the Museo del Prado, depicts less of the cannibalistic ferocity portrayed in Goya's rendition.
However, some critics have suggested that Rubens' portrayal is the more horrific: the god is portrayed as a calculating remorseless killer, who – fearing for his own position of power – murders his innocent child. Goya's vision, on the other hand, depicts Saturn killing his own son in a fury of madness. The body of the son in Goya's picture has adult proportions, in contrast to the infant depicted by Rubens. Goya made a chalk drawing of the same subject in 1796-7 that was closer in tone to Rubens' work: it showed a Saturn similar in appearance to that of Rubens', biting on the leg of one of his sons while he holds another to eat, with none of the gore or madness of the later work. However, Goya scholar Fred Licht has raised doubts regarding the traditional title, noting that the traditional iconographical attributes associated with Saturn are absent from the painting and the body of the smaller figure does not resemble that of an infant. It has been questioned if this figure is male.
The art historian, John J. Ciofalo, writes that "the victim appears to be an adult and, given the curvaceous buttocks and legs, a female." Moreover, in other versions, the sons are alive and struggling or at least have heads, so the viewer is able to identify or sympathize. The victim is not struggling in Saturn's vice-like, blood-oozing grip, which literally cuts into her body, because she is dead, not to mention headless. She does not, to say the least, encourage identification. The identification flows toward Saturn. Ciofalo concludes: "The overwhelming feeling of the image is one of violent and insatiable lust, underscored, to put it mildly, by the livid and enormously engorged penis between his legs...utter male fury has hardly before or since been captured so vividly."
Transfer from the Quinta del Sordo
When Goya went into self-imposed exile in France in 1823, he passed the Quinta del Sordo to his grandson, Mariano. After various changes of ownership, the house came into the possession of the Belgian Baron Emile d'Erlanger in 1874. After 70 years on the walls of the Quinta del Sordo, the murals were deteriorating badly and, in order to preserve them, the new owner of the house had them transferred to canvas under the direction of Salvador Martínez Cubells, the chief art restorer at the Museo del Prado. After showing them at the Exposition Universelle of 1878 in Paris, d'Erlanger eventually donated them to the Spanish state. The effects of time on the murals, coupled with the inevitable damage caused by the delicate operation of mounting the crumbling plaster on canvas, meant that most of the murals required restoration work and some detail may have been lost, but in this respect Saturn Devouring His Son appears to have fared better than some of the other works.
In popular culture
- "These great Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother's knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Earth and starry Heaven that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the contriving of great Zeus."
- "But never before and never since, as far as we know, has a major, ambitious cycle of paintings been painted with the intention of keeping the pictures an entirely private affair."
- Hesiod "Theogony". Sacred-Texts.com. 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
- "Saturn - The Collection - Museo Nacional del Prado". www.museodelprado.es. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
- Licht, 159
- Boime, Albert (2004-08-18). Art in an Age of Counterrevolution, 1815-1848. University of Chicago Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-226-06337-9.
- Licht, 168
- "Goya's Saturn Devouring One of His Sons". smARThistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Connell, 210
- Ciofalo, John J. (2001). The Self-Portraits of Francisco Goya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 157. ISBN 0-521-77136-6. OCLC 43561897.
- Ciofalo, John J. (2001). The Self-Portraits of Francisco Goya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-521-77136-6. OCLC 43561897.
- Snowdrop, Disney Plus, https://www.disneyplus.com/series/snowdrop/. Accessed 4 June 2022.
- Connell, Evan (2004). Francisco Goya: A Life. Counterpoint. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-58243-307-3.
- Licht, Fred (1983). Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art. Icon. p. 288. ISBN 0-06-430123-0.
- Morden, Karen & Pulimood, Stephen (2006). Stephen Farthing (ed.). 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die. London: Quintet Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84403-563-8.
- "Saturn Devouring One of His Sons". Museo del Prado. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
- E. Weems. "The Black Paintings: Saturn". Retrieved 27 February 2007.
- Jay Scott Morgan. "The Mystery of Goya's Saturn". New England Review. Archived from the original on 13 December 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
- "Goya's Black Paintings". theartworlf. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
- Milko A. García Torres. "Francisco José Goya". Pinacoteca Universal Multimedia (in Spanish). Madrid: F & G Editores. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
- Hesiod, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. "Theogony". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
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