• When Art Betrays Mythology: Acquitting Cronus (Κρόνος) in Goya's Saturn

    Boban Dedovic (see profile)
    Religious Studies
    Mythology, Greek, English literature--Old English, Art, History, Hesiod, Criticism--Psychological aspects, Psychoanalysis and literature
    Item Type:
    francisco de goya, Beowulf Manuscript, theogony, saturn, Greek mythology, Anglo-Saxon literature, Art history, Psychological literary criticism
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    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) was a famous Spanish painter who is credited with painting a work known as Saturn Devouring One of His Sons. This work was one of over ten others known as the ‘Black Paintings,’ which were painted on the walls of his Quinta home in Spain. The painting’s contents have been widely accepted as depicting a deity named Saturn, whose Greek equivalent is Cronus (Κρόνος). The concomitant mythological story is the Greek cosmogonic myth known as the Theogony, attributed to Hesiod (ca. 700 BCE). The title and attribution stated above were assigned posthumously, not by Goya himself. No other authorship sources seem to be available. Prior investigations have relied on psychological inferences about Goya. The present investigation adopted a mythological mode of analysis, wherein the contents of Hesiod’s Theogony in the original Greek and English translation were compared with the Saturn painting’s depiction. All three posited hypotheses were supported: (1) prior investigators seemed to rely on psychological analyses concerned with Goya’s mental state, despite a lack of objective evidence from the time period in question; (2) textual evidence from Hesiod’s Theogony did not provide support for Cronus being the figure depicted in the Saturn painting, and; (3) Grendel’s depiction in Beowulf did align with the Saturn painting’s contents, textually and graphically. Further probing was conducted with regard to whether Goya could have profited from the materials and concepts found in the manuscript during his lifetime. The Beowulf manuscript was available to an artist between 1820-1823 and the plot of Beowulf was written about in European publications. Finally, the Beowulf manuscript’s contents included the Biblical story of Judith and Beowulf in the same spine, which corresponds to the adjacent location of the Judith and Saturn paintings in Goya’s Quinta home. Implications and limitations are discussed.
    Moderator approved preprint @ PsyArXiv. https://psyarxiv.com/btwsk © 2020 Boban Dedović
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    Online publication    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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