Francisco Goya: Saturn Devouring His Son (1819-1823)

(Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain)

A painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746-1828). This gruesome painting forms part of the so-called 'black paintings', made by Goya in the period 1819 - 1823. The name of the set refers not only the dark pigments and blacks in them, but also to their somber subjects. Having seen the destruction of the Napoleonic wars in Spain and the following internal instability, Goya increasingly became embittered towards mankind. Goya created the entire set for himself In his house 'la Quinta del Sordo' (The deaf Man's Villa) and reflect his dark and somber attitude during his later life. This painting shows a scene from Greek- Roman mythology. Cronus (or Saturn in Roman mythology) was the leader of the Titans (giants) and the son of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia (the earth). Cronus rebelled, overthrew his father and became ruler of the Universe instead of his father. His mother Gaia however prophesied that, just as Cronus had overthrown his father, he too would be overthrown by one of his offspring. To prevent the prophecy from happening, Cronus devoured his children when they were born. The first five children (the gods Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon) were eaten alive but when the sixth, Zeus, was born, their mother Rhea devised a plan to save him. Rhea gave birth to Zeus on Crete and hid him in cave. She swapped the child with a rock and gave it to Cronus who immediately devoured it. When Zeus was an adult, he defeated his father Cronus and the rest of the Titans and freed his brothers and sisters who were still alive in the stomach of Cronus. Goya made the black paintings as murals directly onto the walls of his house and never named them (the current names come from art historians). A later owner of the la Quinta del Sordo villa had the murals removed and transferred to paintings. Painting from 1819-1823.