Warning: This may not be safe until after you have the family dinner.
Goya painting of Saturn instituting a different course to inheriting the throne, and dinner. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Maybe your family dinners aren’t quite as dismal as some of others’ have been, but the traditional Christmas dinner has been known to reflect all the joys of Goya’s painting. I believe most of us have been exposed to this artistic shock at some point, but I did have the experience of seeing it in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, with a friend whose family had some of the characteristic’s of Goya’s vision into Saturn en famille.
Various interpretations of the meaning of the picture have been offered: the conflict between youth and old age, time as the devourer of all things, the wrath of God and an allegory of the situation in Spain, where the fatherland consumed its own children in wars and revolution. There have been explanations rooted in Goya’s relationships with his own son, Xavier, the only of his six children to survive to adulthood, or with his live-in housekeeper and possible mistress, Leocadia Weiss; the sex of the body being consumed can not be determined with certainty. If Goya made any notes on the picture, they have not survived; as he never intended the picture for public exhibition, he probably had little interest in explaining its significance.
Quite possibly, your family dinners have happier endings for all involved. The position of heir/heiress is often frought with conflict, and I suspect that most families have seen situations that reminded us of our beginnings as a species, and what we might resort to under extreme stress. . . .
Earlier this week, I chanced across an article at BBC.com about cannibalism in Neanderthal setting found in caves and it did bring this painting to mind.
Archaeologists in Spain have unearthed the remains of a possible family of 12 Neanderthals who were killed 49,000 years ago…Their end was a bloody one, with distinct markings on the bones showing they fell victim to cannibalism.
We are all close to our beginning as species confronted with the necessity of survival, sometimes at the expense of another species. I have always suspected that since our species was slight in size and surrounded with other species much better equipped for preying, that we might have originally been scavengers; devouring our own kind would certainly be more than a political metaphor in these circumstances.
When social services are attacked as useless benevolence toward inferior beings, we are all too close to the horrors of Goya’s rendering of his own familial conflict.
This might be a very good time to look closely at our continuing impulses toward violence, and a time to discard whatever of them that we can.