Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring One of His Children, 1819 and 1823, plaster mounted on canvas, 57.5” x 32.7”, Prado Museum, Madrid, Francisco Goya [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Francisco Goya’s Cannibalistic Nightmare
In one of the most terrifying images from the history of art, Spanish artist Francisco Goya rendered the titan Saturn devouring yet another one of his sons for fear the child will usurp him, as it was prophesized. (Saturn’s wife Ops successfully hid his 6th son, Jupiter, who eventually dethroned his father.)
The horrifying scene depicts the father nearly falling apart physically and psychologically as his eyes bulge and his mouth stretches wide open. At the center of the grotesque picture is the partially eaten body of the child from which tributaries of blood flow around Saturn’s gripping fingers.
This is one of Goya’s “Black Paintings” which were never intended for a public audience. He painted them on the walls of his home, the Quinta del Sordo, late in his life when he was deaf, ill and clearly disillusioned.
Most likely, this painting has an allegorical significance: Saturn is Spanish King Ferdinand VIIwho recently was reinstated after Napoleon’s armies finally left, reestablishing an autocratic form of government that oppressed those who fought for Spain during the French occupation.