1819 1823

the signs as famous paintings (not necessarily based on the artists’ actual sign)

ARIES: The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh (1889)

TAURUS: The Birth Of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (1484-1486)

GEMINI: Impression, Sunrise, Claude Monet (1872)

CANCER: The Kiss, Gustav Klimt (1907-1908)

LEO: The Scream, Edvard Munch (1893)

VIRGO: The Son Of Man, Rene Magritte (1964)

LIBRA: Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth (1948)

SCORPIO: Guernica, Pablo Picasso (1937)

SAGITTARIUS: Nighthawks, Edward Hopper (1942)

CAPRICORN: Saturn Devouring His Son, Francisco Goya (1819-1823)

AQUARIUS: Self-Portrait With Thorn Necklace And Hummingbird, Frida Kahlo (1940)

PISCES: The Persistence Of Memory, Salvador Dali (1931)

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9 of the 15 “Black Paintings” that covered the walls of Goya’s home.


The Black Paintings (Spanish: Pinturas negras) is the name given to a group of fourteen paintings by Francisco Goya from the later years of his life, likely between 1819 and 1823. They portray intense, haunting themes, reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity.

In 1819, at the age of 72, Goya moved into a two-story house outside Madrid that was called Quinta del Sordo (Deaf Man’s Villa). Although the house had been named after the previous owner, who was deaf, Goya too was nearly deaf at the time as a result of an illness he had suffered when he was 46. The paintings originally were painted as murals on the walls of the house, later being “hacked off the walls and attached to canvas.” Currently they are held in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

After the Napoleonic Wars and the internal turmoil of the changing Spanish government, Goya developed an embittered attitude toward mankind. He had a first-hand and acute awareness of panic, terror, fear and hysteria. He had survived two near-fatal illnesses, and grew increasingly anxious and impatient in fear of relapse. The combination of these factors is thought to have led to his production of the fourteen works known collectively as the Black Paintings.

Using oil paints and working directly on the walls of his dining and sitting rooms, Goya created works with dark, disturbing themes. The paintings were not commissioned and were not meant to leave his home. It is likely that the artist never intended the works for public exhibition: “…these paintings are as close to being hermetically private as any that have ever been produced in the history of Western art.”

Goya did not give titles to the paintings, or if he did, he never revealed them. Most names used for them are designations employed by art historians.

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Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings

1. Saturn Devouring his Son, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 143 x 81 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

2. The Dog, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 131.5 x 79.3 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

3. Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 49.3 x 83.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

4. Judith and Holofernes, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 143.5 x 81.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

5. Two Old Men, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 146 x 66 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

6. The Fates, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 123 x 266 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

7. Fight with Cudgels, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 123 x 266 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

8. Witches’ Sabbath, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 140 x 438 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

9. Fantastic Vision, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 125.4 x 65.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

10. Man Mocked by Two Women, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 125.4 x 65.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source

Here is a selection of works from Goya’s famous ‘Black Paintings’ series, which consists of fourteen murals that were painted directly onto the walls of the Quinta del Sordo house in Madrid, where the artist lived between 1819 and 1823. They have since been removed, transferred to canvases, and become part of the Museo del Prado’s collection.

The series is pretty dark, to say the least. It is rife with themes of witchcraft, insanity, violence and death’s inevitability. My personal favourite is Saturn Devouring his Son, which is based on the story of Saturn’s Greek counterpart, Cronus, and how he ate his sons after hearing that they would eventually overthrow him. However, Saturn/Cronus was tricked by Rhea into swallowing a stone instead of one of his children. This son, of whom Rhea was the mother, was Zeus, and he would eventually have Cronus and the other titans imprisoned. Goya’s depiction is deliciously gory and terrifying. Saturn’s face is enough to give you nightmares!

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes The Dog
Museo del Prado, Madrid

(The Dog is one of the Black Paintings Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house between 1819 and 1823)

Saturn Devouring His Son, c. 1819–1823, by Francisco Goya

According to the traditional interpretation, it depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus (in the title Romanised to Saturn), who, fearing that he would be overthrown by one of his children, ate each one upon their birth. The only one escaping was Zeus. Rhea, Cronus’ sister and wife, secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly swallowed, thinking that it was his son.