Saturn Devouring His Son: Goya’s Dark Take On Greek Mythology

Great art has the capacity to stir up phenomenal emotions within us, even if that’s a sense of unbridled terror. As that’s what Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ (1746-1828) disturbing painting below certainly does for us.

Saturn devouring his son

Bloody hell. Look at that thing. Everything about that piece is frightening, as Francisco Goya didn’t paint it for public viewings.

Sometime between 1819 and 1823, the Spanish romantic painter committed 14 Black Paintings onto the walls of his home near Madrid.

His depiction of Saturn from Greek mythology was one of them.

The myth is about the Titan Cronus (Latinised to Saturn for the piece). He had a terrible fear his children would overthrow him. That fear was probably because Saturn overthrew his father to rule during the Golden Age.

Regardless, his solution was to eat each child at birth in a paranoid frenzy.

Despite his cannibalistic ways, Zeus eventually escaped the horrible fate and did indeed overthrow his father. After that, he imprisoned the murderous fiend for his remaining days.

Interpretations

Quite what was going through Goya’s mind when he added that to his property we’re not sure. Was he of sound mind?

Left totally deaf after 1792 due to a fever, he moved to Quinta del Sordo (Villa of the Deaf Man – named after its previous owner) in 1819.

And in the picturesque home below, a slump into a mental health battle appears to have taken place. The result of which were 14 gothic masterpieces.

Quinta del Sordo - VIlla of the Deaf Man
Goya’s home in 1900.

Scholars of his work theorise he was worried about death. At the point of painting he was in his early 70s and had suffered several terrible illnesses.

But upon first moving into the home, he painted some inspiring ideas in line with his established canon.

Then, in an abrupt and macabre change of mood, he headed down a deeply disturbing path.

He didn’t intend for anyone to see the works. Only after his death – following a 70-year delay as his home changed between owners – did it finally become available to the public.

Salvador Martínez Cubells (1845-1914), chief art restorer at the Museo del Prado, transferred the 14 works onto canvas for posterity.

But that does mean, for several years at least, Goya was wandering around in his home taking in that painting whilst he, say, had a cup of tea or glass of wine. Or invited friends round to socialise.

If that’s the case, they no doubt left Goya’s home with the haunting gaze of Saturn forever seared in their memory.

17 comments

  1. I was recently watching a Doc. about this, unfortunately it was on a Sci Fi channel and they asserted that this may actually have been the interpretation of ancient people witnessing an alien landing….It seems Zeus made (in this story) Poseidon the Dad spit up the “eaten ” siblings and all was well again. I didn’t make this up.

    Liked by 1 person

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