Arts and Lit of the Week: Francisco Goya, Saturn
Costanza Sardelli shares her favourite artwork this week, Francisco Goya’s Saturn.
You’re sitting at the dining table and enjoying your dinner, when staring at you is Saturn devouring his son… Disturbing as it sounds, this is the daily scenario Francisco Goya – the artist – experienced living in Quinta del Sordo (Villa of the Deaf).
This mural depicts a grotesque Kronos – the Greek Titan – with his mouth gaping wide open, ready to take another bite off his son’s bloody and dismembered corpse. According to prophecy, Saturn would be dethroned by one of his children; afraid of incurring his own fate, he set out to devour every single one of his offspring. Despite Saturn’s efforts, one of his sons, Jupiter (or Zeus), managed to escape and dethrone him.
There is more to this unsettling artwork than a mythological story though, and it can be interpreted in myriad of ways. It is a critique of the terrible social and political conditions of his own country, Spain, under the monarchy in the 19th century. It is an allegory for what happens when one tries to reverse their own fate. It is a reflection of Goya’s own fear of being eaten up by his illness after having fallen sick to what might have been bacterial meningitis or syphilis. It represents the artist’s fear of insanity and being consumed by his own experiences with conflict in Spain. Whichever way you decide to decipher Goya’s Saturn devouring his son, we can say for sure that his work is a reflection of emotions like human fear and anxiety at their rawest.