Painting It Black

Saturn Devouring His Son-Francisco Goya 1819-1823
The most famous and the most horrific of the disturbing series of paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house outside Madrid in his later years, the so-called ‘Black Paintings’. The paintings were probably never intended for public view, it was only after his death that they were hacked off and transferred to canvas.

Intensely, hermetically private, the Black Paintings show Goya unmuzzling his fertile, macabre imagination. Traditionally believed to refer to the Greek myth of Cronus (Romanized as Saturn), the titan that devours each of his children in turn. Goya’s visceral masterpiece shockingly highlights the cannibalistic frenzy and wild-eyed derangement of the Father of the Gods as he holds the torso of the half-consumed body towards his gaping mouth. Whereas the Italian humanists of the Renaissance had, in their re-interpretation of Classical mythology, concentrated on cavorting nymphs in sunlit Arcadian landscapes, Goya instead  presents us with the vision of the primeval truths contained in myths; that of our darkest impulses unleashed in the blackest of nights. Goya is indeed the first of the moderns.

45 thoughts on “Painting It Black

    1. Thank you very much. I post mainly on art for some reason ( that wasn’t the original intention but it has ended up that way) with the occasional story and poetry as well posts on literature and movies. I hope you enjoy.

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    1. I didn’t mean it to sound dismissive of Botticelli and Raphael etc whom I love, I was trying to highlight a shift in the tenor of the times between the early modern period and the start of the modern period proper. Also national characteristics have they part to play.


  1. This painting probably alludes to the horrible violence that Goya witnessed at the time, the Napoleonic wars (France invaded Spain), the repression by the Spanish monarchy and the Inquisition, etc.

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  2. Great Goya post Mr. Cake. I think it’s fascinating that the “Black Paintings” were never meant to be view publicly, it’s a shame that they couldn’t stay in their original location, and viewed as Goya intended, but they would have been demolished with the house. The art conservationists of the day (hacks), where quite a bit different than today’s art conservationists, for sure. Agreed, “Saturn Devouring His Son” is the most disturbing of the series. ~ Miss Cranes

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    1. One of the most disturbing paintings ever painted by any artist. I suppose we are lucky that they survived at all. Did Goya ever mean them to ever been at all is a question that will never be answered. Thank you for the kind comments Miss Cranes.

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      1. It makes you wonder who and what was driving the car, so to speak. If you produce works like this, you have a very strong reason, a very deep need to make a statement. Was the world ready for his statement? It’s almost as though they were painted, lining the walls as a reminder for himself.

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      1. Yes, just over there now. This is my favorite of the, “Black Paintings” because of the emotional appeal, and the sense of hopelessness, that everyone can relate to whether they admit to it or not.

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      2. Mr. Cake you did a fantastic job, and yes you did Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” justice. Perhaps language does not exist to describe some of these things, there are no words. I believe that anyone with an appreciation for all types of art has a subconscious understanding of this.

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  3. Reblogged this on Life in Bloom and commented:
    This piece of writing on Goya captures what and why Goya painted such gruesome pictures is because he wanted to paint what he saw and what he thought was real . Because Goya was painting these picture in the time of Napoleon when there was a lot of war and cruelty going on so he painted the paint that he was seeing.

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