The gruesome painting shows the imposing figure of Saturn emerging from the darkness. His mad-like eyes are bulging from his face as he prepares to take a bite as his fingers dig into his child.
The corpse is motionless and lifeless, his head and arm have been already been consumed. Only the flesh and blood of the mutilated corpse have colour in the darkened scene, which represents Saturn’s fear of being usurped by one of his children.
The disturbing portrait was likely influenced by Peter Paul Ruben's 'Saturn Devouring His Son', a Baroque-style painting created in 1636.
The ‘Black Paintings’, or 'Pinturas Negras’, are a series of fourteen works painted by Goya at his villa outside Madrid. They were created during the artist’s later years, likely between 1819 and 1823.
The intense paintings often depict haunting images and distressing themes. They reflect Goya’s fear of insanity and his dreary view of humanity during a time when conflict such as the Napoleonic Wars created significant social and political turmoil and change in Spain. Goya’s pessimistic attitude towards humanity reflect his own the fear and experience during conflict as well as his fear of relapsing following two serious illnesses.
‘Saturn Devouring His Son’ was painted in the artists dining room at Quinta del Sordo (Deaf Man’s Villa). The villa was named for its previous owner, who was deaf. Goya moved to the villa outside of Madrid in 1819 when the artist himself suffered from hearing loss. His hearing loss was caused by an unknown illness when he was 46, leaving him almost completely deaf.
The ‘Black Paintings’ were frescos in the house and include fourteen works with dark themes and images. Like ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, ‘Tow Old Men Eating Soup’ was also added to Goya’s dining room. The painting also features a dark representation of the act of eating. In addition to the dining room, the murals were also added to sitting rooms. In 1874, the murals were removed and transferred onto canvas. They are now part of the Museo del Prado’s collection in Madrid.
Francisco Goya was one of Spain’s most influential artists, especially during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He serves as a bridge between the Old Masters and modern artist that emerged after 1800. Born in 1746 in the Aragon village of Fuendetodos, Goya began studying art when he was 14.
In 1786, he painted for the Spanish Court and created portraits of royalty and aristocrats. After suffering significant hearing loss in 1793, Goya and his work became bleaker. His paintings and prints began to reflect social and political themes as well as his own personal fears and anxieties. Goya’s experience during the Peninsular War and conflicts in Spain during the early nineteenth century were reflected in his ‘Disasters of War’, a precursor to the ‘Black Paintings’.
The series represented anti-violence themes that were also at the heat of his paintings ‘The Second of May 1808’ and ‘The Third of May 1808’ in 1814. In 1824, Goya moved to France and settled in Bordeaux. He continued to paint and created his ‘La Tauromaquia’ series of prints that depicted bullfighting scenes. A stroke left him partially paralysed and his failing eyesight made painting increasingly difficult. In 1828, Goya died in Bordeau at the age of 82.