The concept of reading images as text originated with the French Theorists who came onto the American academic scene in the 1960s.
It is a very useful and interesting concept because it allows us to interpret images such as paintings in a literary fashion.
I would like to explore the painting Saturn Devouring His Children by the famous nineteenth century Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya.
The painting can be found in The Museo del Prado. The museum is in Madrid, Spain. The link I have included here will take you to the museum’s website for closeups of Saturn Devouring His Children.
The painting depicts the Greek god Cronus (the Roman equivalent is Saturn) devouring his children because he is afraid of being overthrown.
The information I present here comes from a paper I worked on in graduate school and presented at Louisiana State University in February of 2012.
I looked into Goya’s biography to illuminate the darkness of the painting.
Goya was deaf and therefore already lived an isolated life. It is believed that he went mad from sucking on the lead infused paint on his brushes, which was the common way to sharpen them.
Some critics believe that Goya was expressing his madness in the only way available to him: through the very paint that poisoned his mind.
In a sense, he might have identified with Saturn because he also devoured his children. But his came back to haunt him.