Thoughts On: Saturn Devouring His Son - Whole Decimation Pt. 2


Saturn Devouring His Son - Whole Decimation Pt. 2

Quick Thoughts: Saturn Devouring His Son (1819-23)

A return to Goya's iconic 'dark painting'.

This is just a very small revisal of a recent post where we looked into Goya's depiction of Saturn/Cronus devouring his children. Previously we discussed the manner in which Goya creates a new myth, far darker and far more pessimistic than the original. In doing so we zoomed in on some of the deformity that is used to give his painting motion through suspended and implied time and space. However, there is one section that I believe I blundered in analysing:

Around the mid-section of Cronus, there is a blur of lines that I suggested was a deformity that Goya uses to give motion to the painting; to place a force, a vacuum, that sucks him away. Looking back at the post again, however, as if suddenly seeing through an optical illusion, I realised that this is not a blur of lines. This is a pig's head:

The pig doesn't seem to have a strict symbolic lineage in Greek myth like the horse or bull does. However, much like Theseus is said to have slain a bull, he is also said to have slain the Crommyonian Sow. This is thought to be a daughter of two great giants, Typhon and Echidna, and mother to the Calydonian Boar, which plays apart in a more prominent myth of the Calydonian Hunt. Without taking too much from this myth and superimposing it onto Goya's painting unduly, we can see here an alignment of the pig (and more generally, the boar) with plague and devastation. This is further seen as true with the transformation of Odysseus' men into swine when they come upon Circe.

It is, however, possible that Goya is making a basic allusion with his deception and his hiding of the pig on Cronus' lap. The most direct conclusion would be to infer gluttony and a devolution to a lowly animal. I will leave things open to you, however. What are your thoughts on this painting? Did you see the pig in the painting originally, or are you still struggling to see it?

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