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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, also known as Francisco de Goya, is considered one of the most prominent artists of the eighteenth century Spain. Artist’s most productive years fell on the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century when the order of things had shifted and the revolutionary events occurred nearly in every corner of the world. On the one hand, the monarchies collapsed and the kingdoms were at war with each other. Hence, the most powerful countries of that time were ravaged by civil wars. On the other hand, at that period art was represented by the age of Enlightenment. The purpose of art in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century was to reconsider the history of mankind and by doing so to restore peace and glorify the power of reason and common sense.
Different genres and techniques encapsulated Francisco de Goya as an artist, specifically the following ones. Throughout his life’s work, de Goya created many paintings, drawings, frescos, and etchings (Voorhies). His career was marked by much searching and thus, the transitions from upbeat/jolly motives (that is to say, optimistic pathos) to the pessimistic ones (Voorhies). Francisco de Goya’s apprenticeship began in the year 1760 when at the age of fourteen he became a student of the painter José Luzán Martínez (Voorhies). Francisco de Goya was appointed as a painter to King Charles III at the age of forty. The artist became a court painter under King Charles’s IV rule when he was 43 years old (Voorhies). France declared war on Spain in 1793 and the year 1808 was marked by the French invasion of Spain (Voorhies). Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph ascended the throne of Spain as the country was conquered by France. Francisco de Goya “pledged allegiance” to Bonaparte, although hestrongly disapproved of French wrath, outrage, and heinousness (Voorhies). The artist was awarded the Royal Order of Spain in 1811 (Voorhies). Consequently, Goya’s position and evaluation of the situation cast doubt on his loyalty. To set the record straight and pay homage to all those who fought for the independence of Spain, the artist created two paintings, namely, The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808 (Voorhies). In the early 1820s, Francisco de Goya became a recluse and took up residence in his “small country retreat” called Quinta del Sordo, also known as the Deaf Man’s House (Voorhies). In the period between 1820 and 1823, the artist created a series of paintings known as the Black Paintings. Goya found the political developments of Spain unsatisfactory (Voorhies). For this reason, he made a decision to move to Bordeaux in 1824 (Voorhies). It happened that the artist spent the last years of his life in Bordeaux and Paris (Voorhies). All in all, Francisco de Goya can be characterized as a controversial artist and person whose depth is difficult to understand. Besides, his artistic intentions and personal motives are ambiguous.
Saturn Devouring His Son is, perhaps, one of the brightest samples of Goya’s art and of the most vivid illustrations of the so-called Black Paintings. Saturn is portrayed as an anthropomorphic figure of enormous size. The titan has shaggy hair and the eyes of a madman. Except for his size, Saturn resembles more of a human than a deity. The titan is holding in his hands the body of his son whom he killed. The body is beheaded and the upper limbs are missing. Besides, the body is bleeding all over. The background of the painting is dark. The brushstrokes are neat yet deliberately vivid.
Obviously, the painting incorporates one of the mythical motives, namely, it addresses the Ancient Roman mythology. Saturn is the counterpart of Cronus, the deity representing time in the Ancient Greek mythology. In Roman mythology, Saturn is considered the god of harvest and the patron of farmers. Saturn is regarded as a father of Jupiter and the titans. Jupiter is the counterpart of the Greek god Zeus. According to the myths, there was a portent that said that one of the Saturn’s children would defeat him. Saturn represents the chthonic, that is to say, earth-born creatures. In addition to that, the second largest planet of the Solar System is named after the Ancient Roman god of harvest and agriculture.
Saturn can be viewed as a powerful symbol for his nature is based on the opposition between destruction and creation. Saturn Devouring His Son illustrates perfectly how vulnerable and fragile the whole life is. At the same time, it provokes the thought and presumably makes a recipient consider the following. Fear and incapability to embrace destiny make one a morally corrupt person. People should never attempt to destroy things they either do not comprehend or fear.
To sum up, each period in the history of arts is unique. The Enlightenment is considered one of the so-called realistic epochs. The age of Enlightenment attempted to glorify reason and common sense. It was strongly influenced by the historical conditions that existed at that time. In addition to that, the works of art created in the age of Enlightenment incorporate classical philosophy and many mythical motives. Francisco Goya life’s work blends harmoniously into the cultural and artistic canvas of the world in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. Saturn Devouring His Son represents the ambiguity, complexity, and diversity of the art of Enlightenment.