Saturn Devours His Children


Francisco Goya Y Lucientes, Saturn Devouring One Of His Sons, 1820-22

Between the years of 1819 and 1823, artist Francisco Goya painted a series of paintings, known as “black paintings,” all of which portrayed terrible and morbid imagery. Using combination of tenebrism, violent contrasts of light and dark where darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image, and shadows, dark area or shape made by an object blocking rays of light, Goya creates a rendition to Saturn, a mythological character, who, fearing his children would overthrow him one day, ate each one of them as soon as they were born. The artist was trying to portray Saturn as a figure of ‘time’ which “consumes us all.” However, the empty background, the part of a scene or picture that is farthest from the viewer, combined with the negative space, space around and between an image, give off the vibe of something mysterious and much more darker lurking in the darkness. The midground, often where the main action takes place, shows Saturn holding on tightly to his son while his eyes appear to be filled with sorrow and regret as if he did not intend to eat his children. The foreground, portion of a scene nearest to the viewer, shows Saturn‘s hands ripping into the child’s back. This entire painting is quite graphic and represents a dark time period in Goya’s life.


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