Not a real book. Sorry.

Not a real book. Sorry.

Francisco Goya (Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes) was a late 18th and early 19th century Spanish artist, very successful in his lifetime, whose paintings are still appreciated. His Black Paintings in particular later gained a popularity which they did not possess in his lifetime.



The Black Paintings, undertaken in isolation by an aging Goya, and painted directly on the interior walls of his house, have supplied imaginative writers with ready-made nightmares for two centuries. He did not intend to display the 14 paintings, never wrote about them, and may not have spoken about them. They were discovered after his death, and transferred to canvas 50 years later. Titles were assigned to the paintings post-mortem because he gave them none, or never revealed them if he did.



The most famous painting in the group is arguably Saturn Devouring His Son (Witches’ Sabbath may be a close second). It depicts a giant male figure, naked, long-haired, bearded and wild-eyed, holding a headless, adult male body up to his mouth with two hands. The giant figure is in the process of eating of the smaller figure -- he has an arm in his mouth, up to the elbow, has already eaten the head, possibly the other arm.



The traditional interpretation of the scene is that it depicts the Greek myth of the titan Kronos (the Roman Saturn) devouring his children, having learned that he was destined to be overcome by his own sons. Substituting a stone for their sixth child soon after its birth, his sister-wife Rhea kept the infant Zeus a secret. Once grown, Zeus forced his father to vomit up the children he had consumed (or cut his stomach to achieve the same end, in other versions of the story): Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. They overcame their childhood trauma and went on to have illustrious careers in the Olympian public service.


It’s a powerful painting, and a compelling image. We find explicit mention of it in several Barron stories:


Procession of the Black Sloth:

Mrs. Ward gnawed at the bones with an almost sexual intensity that called to mind the hoary old painting of Saturn chewing his hapless children to bits.


Jaws of Saturn:

Franco recalled the de Goya painting of the titan Saturn who stuffed a man into his frightful maw and chewed with wide-eyed relish.


The Croning:

Bronson Ford revealed himself highlighted by a shaft of bloody radiance, a monstrous and bloated giant perched atop a slag heap of bones that floated on the surface of an illimitable void. His eyes and mouth were portals that mirrored the iris in the ziggurat, the void itself. He was de Goya’s Saturn, Polyphemus, and Satan sans horns. 


X's for Eyes:

Dad loomed, the height and mass of a Greek titan—Kronos, devourer of his own progeny. 


Man with No Name:

“Perhaps now is not the time for riddles, Muzaki-san.”
“Yes, it is. Here’s one - I once had seven brothers. Like Saturn, father ate my brothers, but my mother was clever. She swaddled a suckling pig and fed it to him in my place.” 


"the worms crawl in,":

The future unravels in an arc of projectile vomit from the jaws of Saturn: an approaching tsunami of blood and peeled flesh and more blood.


We also find echoes of the image, either conscious or unconscious allusions, in other stories.



Wallace thrashed and lowed like a cow that has been hamstrung. Teeth nicked him, might have snipped his fingers at the knuckle, he could tell from the size and sharpness of them. A great, Neolithic cannibal was making love to his hand. Then his hand slipped deeper, as the beast grunted and gulped and the mouth closed softly over his forearm, his elbow, and this couldn't be possible, no way the esophageal sheath of a monstrous throat constricted around his biceps with such force his bones creaked together, no way that he was being swallowed alive, that he was going to disappear into the belly of a giant—


As we go through the stories, we will no doubt pick out others and add them to our list.