Even by Game of Thrones standards, Rubens depiction of Saturn devouring his son is grotesque. There is a matter of factness in the way Saturn is going about his business that is chilling. Ramsay Bolton would be reminding us of his jaw-dropping barbarity, but this guy is just doing it. And he has reason, knowing that among the deities, sons usurp their fathers. Then there’s the ripping of the flesh off the chest; it’s not the usual “off with his head” approach, but more the way one might eat chicken (without cutlery, I mean ). Saturn with an old man’s dishevelled grey hair, bushy eye-brows, loss of body-tone so wonderfully achieved; it’s a realistic impression, and it’s an impression that stresses that all is being done with the utmost (albeit depraved) sanity.
Goya’s Saturn , on the other hand is comic-book; he looks completely ‘out of his tree’; whichever end of the carcass was topmost would, of course, be the end that got chewed off first. And since the headless body seems to be of adult proportions, this Saturn is a giant. As regards which Saturn I’d prefer to bump into, I suppose I’d take my chances with the first; on the other hand, since he looks like any old man, I might well run him and not recognise anything different in him; and that’s serious menace.
It helps me to use images like these to spur ideas in my own writing. The various different interpretations of Goya’s painting (time devouring the young, Spanish war efforts devouring its youth, deaths of Goya’s own children, relations with his son) are prime fodder for poetry and the images can prepare the stage. But isn’t it intriguing how completely different the poem would end up if based on one or the other of these two images?