Considered one of the most important artists of Spanish history, Francisco Goya created a bleak and haunting world in a series of dark paintings. Goya became deaf following an illness in his forty’s, the second time he had survived serious illness. As a result, he became conscious of his own mortality and his art began to include themes of anxiety, fear and terror.
“Some people can hardly even look at them,” explained historian Teresa Vega.
The pieces form a collection called ‘The Black Paintings’. Goya never titled the works himself, but the name was chosen by Goya’s friend Antonio Brugada. The series is made up of fourteen paintings: Atropos (The Fates), Two Old Men, Two Old Men Eating Soup, Fight with Cudgels, Witches’ Sabbath, Men Reading, Judith and Holofernes, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, Women Laughing, Procession of the Holy Office, The Dog, Saturn Devouring His Son, La Leocadia, and Fantastic Vision. Originally the paintings adorned the walls of the artists home, known as Quinta del Sordo – Deaf Man’s House – though it was actually named by the previous owner. They were later transferred to canvas for pubic exhibition at Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Perhaps the best known of the Black Paintings is Saturn Devouring His Son. Fearing a prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him, Saturn ate each of his children upon their birth. Goya depicts this act of cannibalism as Saturn’s fingers dig into the back of his child whose head and right arm are already consumed. Witches’ Sabbath or The Great He-Goat (El aquelarre) is an ominous, gloomy and earth-toned illustration depicts the ancient belief that the Sabbath was a meeting of witches supervised by the Devil who took the form of a goat.
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