Francisco Goya - Saturn Devouring His Children / by Chris Hall

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children, c 1820

Francisco Goya created the 14 works comprising The Black Paintings between 1820 and 1824, when he would have been 74.  Perhaps the most iconic of the series is his painting of Saturn Devouring His Children.    Goya created Saturn and The Black Paintings by painting his oils directly onto the plaster walls of his house, named La Quinta del Sordo, "The House of the Deaf Man."  Saturn Devouring His Children, with its icy stare and gruesome subject matter, was in Goya's dining room.  The painting is large, measuring 32” x 56”.  Goya also gave Saturn a giant, erect penis.  By the time he had painted Saturn, Goya had given up on Spain, which, after the liberal Pretender King Joseph Bonaparte was expelled, returned to a conservative and repressive monarchy under Ferdinand VII, reconstituting the Inquisition.  Goya no longer made artwork with the intention of sharing them with others.  The Black Paintings were made entirely for himself.  

In 1874, some 50 years after they were painted, Saturn and The Black Paintings began the slow process of being transferred onto canvas.  In 1878, they were moved to the Museo del Prado in Madrid.  Sometime during the transfer process, Saturn lost his penis.  Whether the loss was an accident or a deliberate act by prudish conservators will never be known.