what’s the scariest painting in art history
There are some strong contenders like:
“The Judgement of Cambyses” by Gerard David
Hieronymus Boschs’ rendering of”Hell”
and Edvard Munchs'”The Scream”
But there’s only ever really
been one painting that has seriously disturbed me,
Francisco Goyas'”Saturn Devouring His Son”
What you’re seeing here,
is the legendary Spanish painter’s depiction of the Greek Titan Cronus:
who after usurping power from his father, was
told a prophecy that one of his own sons
would do the same and usurp him.
In order to prevent this every time his Queen Rhea bore a child,
Cronus would eat it.
Unfortunately for him in the end Rhea conspired
to hide away their youngest son, Zeus,
who eventually fulfilled the prophecy exiled his father
and ended the reign of the Titans.
The story is a well known Greek myth,
but look at how Goya handles it.
Some key changes jump out right away. First,
in the myth Cronus devours his children by swallowing them whole.
In fact, they remain alive in his stomach.
Goya’s painting is a much more gruesome affair.
He takes some inspiration here from Peter Paul Rubens’,
a Flemish baroque painter who depicted the same event as well.
In Rubens'”Saturn”, the Titan seems to be sucking the life force from his child
even for such a terrifying subject-matter,
鲁本斯所展示的戏剧性 丰富性 甚至是美感都显示出一种他帮助使之出名的“巴洛克风格”
Rubens’ displays all the drama, richness, even beauty, that marks”The Baroque Style” he helped to make famous.
In Goya’s version, that beauty is gone.
We’re left with a frightened crazed monster
discovered in the dark as if by some explorer
with a torch who wandered into the wrong cave. Saturn,
Cronus’ Roman name,
has already chewed off the head of his child.
His black mouth opens around the elbow of the left arm,
ready to bite it off at the joint.
His angular body is crouching in an awkward position,
his hands dig into the spine,
blood runs down his child’s arm and
脖子 肩膀流下来 呈现出一种令人震惊的主色调
neck and shoulder a startling primary color.
And if we take a closer look we noticed
that this is not a child at all
But one of Saturn’s kids grown up.
There’s something even more terrifying
in knowing that the victim knew what was happening and tried to fight back.
But what’s most disturbing
of all I think is when and where this painting was found.
晚年时 弗朗西斯科·戈雅在马德里郊区买了一所房子 叫做”不问世事的别墅”
Late in his life, Francisco Goya purchased a house on the outskirts of Madrid called”La Quinta del Sordo”
or The Villa of The Deaf after its previous owner;
an interesting coincidence since by that time in his life,
Goya was deaf too.
His physical and mental health declining,
Goya painted 14 murals often referred to as
“The Black Paintings”
Directly onto the interior walls of his home.
“Saturn devouring his son”?
was in the dining room.
The photographs you’re seeing now were taken over 50 years after that time.
Goya never mentioned the paintings himself.
He never intended for anyone to see them
but to this day, people still puzzle over the meaning of”The Black Paintings”.
Why was Goya creating these pessimistic and fantastical scenes
in the solitude of his home?
To understand this it might help to go back through Goya’s career
He grew up in Zaragoza, Spain.
The fourth of six children in a lower middle-class family.
据说 他在萨拉戈萨 马德里和罗马学习绘画时
By all accounts, he was a light-hearted and joyful kid
as he studied painting in Zaragoza, Madrid and Rome.
His first serious job was at the royal tapestry
factory where he created tapestry cartoons to adorn the
palaces and stately homes of the city.
These tapestries take their cue from
“The Rococo Style”, elegant,
light scenes of both nobility and peasantry enjoying the normal activities of their day.
Goya eventually became the court painter
for King Charles IV, a disappointing monarch
unlike his father Charles The III,
who was beloved by the people for enacting reforms that began to bring
secular enlightenment values to Spain.
In 1793, an unknown illness left Goya deaf.
Though he still took commissions from his royal clientele,
this disease was a dark turning point in his life and art.
You can see it in Yard With Lunatics from 1794
bodies grapple and cry out in anguish.
The difference between this and the tapestry cartoons,
His hearing gone, Goya began to see the country
around him with a grim clarity in a series of etchings called
Los Caprichos or The Caprices,
he sends up a Spanish culture that is both tragic and comic.
A student of the Enlightenment himself, Goya sees the country
backsliding on the road to modernity.
The King is withdrawn and the people are
superstitious and too stupid to know what they need.
You can see him fusing all the corners
of his imagination the quest for anatomical truth,
the need for social critique and an obsession with beasts and creatures.
It’s all summed up in this one aptly titled”The Sleep of Reason produces monsters”.
In the following years, things got worse for Spain.
Napoleon invaded the country and brutally massacred those who resisted his campaign.
Goya was witness to the bloodshed and it affected him deeply.
His painting on the subject, the 3rd of May 1808,
is a revelatory depiction of war,
resistance and brutality.
在此之前 战争在绘画中是一个高度戏剧化的主题 在这里
Before this, war was a highly composed theatrical subject in painting. Here,
Goya gives nothing but brute force.
It’s emotion unmediated by artifice.
It would be five years until Spain regained its throne.
在此期间 变革者制定了《1812年宪法 》
In the interim resistors developed The constitution of 1812,
which called for Liberal Reforms like National Sovereignty,
Freedom of the Press and Free Enterprise.
But on gaining power, the new King Ferdinand VII,
squashed the Constitution right away and arrested those who made it. Goya,
the country which in his youth had reached
toward a new world, was now swallowed again by autocracy.
Scarred by war, scarred by illness,
he began to paint nightmare scenes onto the walls of his home.
In one, a young man is being eaten
by the father he was prophesied to usurp.
By now Goya knows progress isn’t assured and when it’s defeated,
it’s not painless
是恐怖的 缓慢的 受害者感受得到它正在发生
It’s horrific and slow and the victim can feel it happening.
There are a lot of ways that you can read”Saturn devouring his son”.
Maybe Goya was trying to exorcise the demons
of his mind or the demons of his country.
Or maybe he was just trying to paint honestly
about one terrifying facet of man’s nature,
using the skills and techniques he learned and pioneered through a lifetime.
“The Black Paintings” changed the history of art, but what’s maybe scariest of all
is that Goya didn’t care.
He doesn’t care how we read this painting
because he didn’t paint it for us or for anyone.
“Saturn devouring his son” exists beyond interpretation.
It’s brute force horror without mediation.
A monster looking out from a dark wall
in a dark room,