That Which is Eaten Also Devours
Francisco Goya stargazes.
Deafened by illness, besieged by pessimism and depression due to personal loss and the peninsular war, and lately abandoned by his muse, the artist stands in the fields outside his home at Quenta del Sordo, staring at the vast silent black tapestry of the night sky. His gaze fixes on the third brightest point in the sky: the swirling, gaseous form of Jupiter, the anticyclonic convex of the Great Red Spot like a great fearsome unblinking eye.
It is impossible for the artist, at this remove, to see the planet in this detail without the aid of a telescope. To perceive the endless cycle of storms painting texture and color to the surface.
Impossible, and yet true. Jupiter is a falling stone that bends the cosmic sea around itself, and he cannot look away.
Equally impossible how above him, millions of miles away, the Great Red Spot of the planet stares back. And yet it is also true.
It is a storm system larger than continents, a vortex of pressure and torrent which pours itself into the artist, fills and buffets him with soundless tempests. Jupiter’s presence fills not only the darkness of the cosmos but that within Goya himself, occupying his mind with a vast greatness amidst an even more vast nothingness.
In this new perception Goya is aware too of the presence of Saturn, sixth planet from the sun, looming like a jilted lover eager for vengeance, or perhaps congress, upon their paramour. Saturn, the being whom the Greeks named the titan Kronos, overseer of the harvest, who so feared prophecy that he devoured his sons so that they could not supplant him. Jupiter, saved through his mother’s treachery, overcame his father and restored his divine brothers from Saturn’s stomach, fulfilling the prophesy and perpetuating the cycle.
In myth, so too in astronomy, the defeated Saturn dwelling in the outer fringes of the greater Jupiter’s light, forever diminished by the stronger orbit of the other.
From his field, from inside the Great Red Eye, from his own discordant emptiness, Goya perceives all of these things. He sees the great winding gyres the heavenly bodies spin towards and against, the infinite inescapable cycles of destruction, consumption, and restoration that drive gods and planets and men.
Goya sees, and abhors.
Stricken, the artist breaks at last from his celestial vigil, and retreats into the sanctuary of his home. There, upon walls already painted black as the sky at which he so recently stared, Goya begins to apply his brush. A crude gangrel shape of ochre and rust begins to form. In time, it will reveal itself fully as a monstrous Saturn devouring his children, awaiting his own ruination in turn.
This image, of the barbarous but futile extremities beings will enact to forestall the inevitable, will haunt Goya for the rest of his days.