The Most Disturbing Painting

The Most Disturbing Painting

There are some strong contenders like: “The Judgement of Cambyses” by Gerard David, Hieronymus Bosch’s rendering of Hell, Henry Fuseli’s “Nightmare”, and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. But there’s only ever really been one painting that has seriously disturbed me — this one. Francisco Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son”. What you’re seeing here, is the legendary Spanish painter’s depiction of the Greek Titan Cronus, who after usurping power from his father, was told a prophecy that one of his own sons would do the same and usurp him. In order to prevent this, every time his Queen Rhea bore a child, Cronus would eat it. Unfortunately for him, in the end Rhea conspired to hide away their youngest son — Zeus; who eventually fulfilled the prophecy, exiled his father and ended the reign of the Titans. The story is a well known Greek myth, but look at how Goya handles it. Some key changes jump out right away. First, in the myth Cronus devours his children by swallowing them whole. In fact, they remain alive in his stomach. Goya’s painting is a much more gruesome affair. He takes some inspiration here from Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish baroque painter who depicted the same event as well. In Rubens’ “Saturn”, the Titan seems to be sucking the life force from his child. Even for such a terrifying subject matter, Rubens displays all the drama, richness, even beauty, that marks the Baroque style he helped to make famous. In Goya’s version, that beauty is gone. We’re left with a frightened, crazed monster discovered in the dark as if by some explorer with a torch, who wandered into the wrong cave. Saturn — Cronus’ Roman name — has already chewed off the head of his child. His black mouth opens around the elbow of the left arm, ready to bite it off at the joint. His angular body is crouching in an awkward position, his hands dig into the spine, blood runs down his child’s arm and neck and shoulder a startling primary color. And if we take a closer look, we noticed that this is not a child at all — but one of Saturn’s kids grown up. There’s something even more terrifying in knowing that the victim knew what was happening and tried to fight back. But what’s most disturbing of all, I think, is when and where this painting was found. Late in his life, Francisco Goya purchased a house on the outskirts of Madrid, called “La Quinta del Sordo”, or “The Villa of the Deaf” after its previous owner. An interesting coincidence, since by that time in his life, Goya was deaf too. His physical and mental health declining, Goya painted 14 murals often referred to as “The Black Paintings”. Directly onto the interior walls of his home. “Saturn devouring his son”? Was in the dining room. The photographs you’re seeing now were taken over 50 years after that time. Goya never mentioned the paintings himself. He never intended for anyone to see them but to this day, people still puzzle over the meaning of “The Black Paintings”. Why was Goya creating these pessimistic and fantastical scenes in the solitude of his home? To understand this it might help to go back through Goya’s career. He grew up in Zaragoza, Spain. The fourth of six children in a lower middle-class family. By all accounts, he was a light-hearted and joyful kid as he studied painting in Zaragoza, Madrid and Rome. His first serious job was at the royal tapestry factory where he created tapestry cartoons to adorn the palaces and stately homes of the city. These tapestries take their cue from “The Rococo Style”, elegant, playful, light scenes of both nobility and peasantry enjoying the normal activities of their day. Goya eventually became the court painter for King Charles IV, a disappointing monarch unlike his father Charle III, who was beloved by the people for enacting reforms that began to bring secular enlightenment values to Spain. In 1793, an unknown illness left Goya deaf. Though he still took commissions from his royal clientele, this disease was a dark turning point in his life and art. You can see it in “Yard With Lunatics” from 1794 bodies grapple and cry out in anguish. The difference between this and the tapestry cartoons, is shocking. His hearing gone, Goya began to see the country around him with a grim clarity in a series of etchings called Los Caprichos or The Caprices, he sends up a Spanish culture that is both tragic and comic. A student of the Enlightenment himself, Goya sees the country backsliding on the road to modernity. The King is withdrawn and the people are superstitious and too stupid to know what they need. You can see him fusing all the corners of his imagination the quest for anatomical truth, the need for social critique and an obsession with beasts and creatures. It’s all summed up in this one aptly titled “The Sleep of Reason produces monsters”. In the following years, things got worse for Spain. Napoleon invaded the country and brutally massacred those who resisted his campaign. Goya was witness to the bloodshed and it affected him deeply. His painting on the subject, the 3rd of May 1808, is a revelatory depiction of war, resistance and brutality. Before this, war was a highly composed theatrical subject in painting. Here, Goya gives nothing but brute force; it’s emotion unmediated by artifice. It would be five years until Spain regained its throne. In the interim resistors developed The Constitution of 1812, which called for liberal reforms like: national sovereignty, freedom of the press and free enterprise. But on gaining power, the new King Ferdinand VII squashed the Constitution right away, and arrested those who made it. Goya, withdrew, disheartened the country which in his youth had reached toward a new world, was now swallowed again by autocracy. Scarred by war, scarred by illness, he began to paint nightmare scenes onto the walls of his home. In one, a young man is being eaten by the father he was prophesied to usurp. By now Goya knows progress isn’t assured and when it’s defeated, it’s not painless It’s horrific and slow and the victim can feel it happening. There are a lot of ways that you can read “Saturn devouring his son”. Maybe Goya was trying to exorcise the demons of his mind or the demons of his country. Or maybe he was just trying to paint honestly about one terrifying facet of man’s nature, using the skills and techniques he learned and pioneered through a lifetime. “The Black Paintings” changed the history of art, but what’s maybe scariest of all is that Goya didn’t care. He doesn’t care how we read this painting because he didn’t paint it for us or for anyone. “Saturn devouring his son” exists beyond interpretation. It’s brute force horror without mediation. A monster looking out from a dark wall in a dark room, …chewing… Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching. This episode was brought to you by Squarespace

Dereck Turner

100 thoughts on “The Most Disturbing Painting

  1. Donamtrx says:

    How bout a Francis Bacon?

  2. Slimine GT says:

    Vote is a shitty fetish

  3. OJeyjunior says:

    Saturn isn't eating a newborn son, in my view that is not a scene, that is a feeling, the last feeling.
    the anguish into a defeated man's eyes, the last wish of his, "I wish I had eaten you Jupiter".
    the dispair he felt the moment he realized he had an heir, like a person reaching it's own throat, one second after the cut.
    what happens when you, a giant, die (or something like that)? maybe Saturn's tartarus is to forever feel like he is eating his son, with the soft mind of an old defeated (country).

  4. zarah says:

    saturn probably turned into a mindless titan

  5. Shahin Tajeri says:

    I remember this old saying that went "In fear of monsters in the dark, we live in darkness and turn into them" and that is the vibe that I get from the eyes.

  6. My Chemical Ryan Ross says:

    I chuckled at the beginning because it sounded like a dude loudly eating chips

  7. Ryan Gman says:

    >Chokes on son's leg bone
    Prophecy fulfilled

  8. David Eades says:

    Did anyone else have this turn up typing "cats" into search engine and scrolling down a little?

  9. RadiCAL says:


    gives me chills every time I watch this

  10. Sanane says:

    I am 20 years old and watching this in the middle of the night and because these paintings are really fucking disturbing + the music you put over it makes me not wanna leave my room until the nights over

  11. Miss Guided Ghosts says:


  12. Jonathan Lewis says:

    My high school year book photo is scarier than this painting.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Scary? Grandpa's just having a snack

  14. Lorenzo Potrich says:

    The best artists are the disturbed ones…

  15. Mack Lotus says:

    Im pretty sure a metal band used this as their album cover

  16. A VC says:

    He's an artist..that's what happens sometimes you draw sexy chickens with large breasts in lingerie

  17. aaron garrett says:

    I can’t understand why YouTube thinks I want to watch this overly analytical garbage.

  18. george georgiev says:

    This should be an assassin's creed dlc

  19. Shawn Charley says:

    They think that Greek myths were taken as a feeling and not as fact. Swallowing them whole probably meant absorbing all their information, as it was thought that the stomach was from where we think. This is a pretty accurate interpretation of absorbing all that is them. I think it is more about the gruesomeness of wanting and taking something that is not yours to take.

  20. Christian Gasior says:

    The Scream always has disturbed me on a primal level. Maybe not anymore, but that painting just screams existential panic attack of the highest order to me. I don’t know where I first saw it, it may have been just a cartoon joke version, but it’s one of those things that seems to have always existed and he just took a snapshot of it and put it on canvas.

  21. HobiDobi _ says:

    More like the most disturbing man eating fried chicken for the first few seconds 💀

  22. Safak Aksin says:

    The fact that this child eating man in the painting is caught by the viewer (you) gives a frightening tension that doesnt go away.

  23. PrimoRep Dick says:

    when the squad smoking and u tryna hide the munchies from them

  24. Begajah Geneng says:

    I thought. That was Tarare

  25. goddess mayumi says:

    this is why war is never justifiable for me 🙁 even though it is normal in the eyes of International Relations 🙁 I can’t imagine people going through this darkness 🙁

  26. Nero says:

    I personally think that Ivan the Terribles painting (the one where he killed his son) is one of the disturbing paintings in history, the yellow and horrifying stare of Ivan while the terrifying look of the son as the blood drips down from his head.

  27. Siddhesh Naik says:

    Don't know who scared me much. Goya's painting or your voice

  28. T Mercer says:

    This was excellent.

  29. Aditya Pathak says:

    Damn this painting always makes me hungry…

  30. Herman Daniel says:


  31. Stefan Fuchs says:

    You make a big mistake, taking cronos as a person. Its all about natural events.

  32. Tony Barlow says:

    His son is thicc ngl

  33. Snidely Whiplash says:

    One painting that has always deeply disturbed me is Francis Bacon's "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X."

  34. Ava W says:

    Everyone talks about how saturns eyes freak them out the most but to me his anatomy disturbs me the most

  35. Einfacher Kerl says:

    oh son, you are tasty!

  36. Mr. Bacon says:

    The scream is just made as a joke

  37. Poop Poo says:

    I could've done without those crunching noises lol

  38. Gbdnhb the Yeeter says:

    What a beautiful duwang


  39. BILL REX says:

    Kinda cute idk what yall mean

  40. zan cz says:

    do you always talk like that?

  41. marika m says:

    yeah the painting is scary but this video opening with pitch black and a crunchy chewing noise over one ominous high note is scarier

  42. xolani gumbi says:

    What if the boy is trying to retrieve his swallowed head?

  43. Balong says:

    Soo niceeeee 👍

  44. Juan Andres Amaya Rojas says:

    Kronos is the Greek name, Saturn the Roman, you say it backwards.

  45. John B. says:

    My favorite disturbing painting is The Wild Chase

  46. Jenni Annelieze Mellow says:

    well then, came for art history, got knowledge AND nightmares. thanks.

  47. Phil C says:

    Those who don't follow the true Christ are in danger of becoming like Saturn.

  48. Darth Bane says:

    Wanna see something really scary? Look up another one of Goya’s works, “Grande hazaña! Con muertos!” We all know Saturn is a fictitious legend, but I honestly don’t know whether or not that other piece, which means “A heroic feat! With dead men!” was something Goya might have beheld in real life or something he just imagined. The fact that it depicts something we know humans are more than capable of celebrating as a noble achievement, regardless of the validity of that particular image, is almost as terrifying as the image itself, which unapologetically depicts an upmost lack of respect for the dead. Instead of an ancient myth, this piece of art tells a simple story. Someone killed three men, then they took the time to put their bodies on hideous display as if they had just hunted three animals, reminding themselves of their proud victory, establishing that they have the power to get away with something like that without trying to hide it, striking fear into the hearts of any potential challengers, and vandalizing both the physical environment and the memory of the fallen. It is wrong in every sense, and for all I know, it could have happened, because the same thing has happened countless times before.

  49. A Sandwich says:

    Just had to throw in those munching sounds at the beginning huh?

  50. Alva Linde says:

    This video is amazing, just as the paintings are. The use of font and music and tone of voice really made me frightened and boosted the experience, keep it up!

  51. cemre ışıl says:

    The soundtrack gave me a nightmare

  52. RoboticDreamz says:

    I admit that painting scared the crap out of me as well when I was a little kid when it got featured in an encyclopedia article.

  53. A VC says:

    Guys went deaf because of the paint

  54. mimimi mi says:

    Why do I watch this at 2am?

  55. Nikki B says:

    man that’s creepy

  56. gareyal says:

    Why is listening to people chewing food so unsettling and unnerving?

  57. Aren Barthel says:

    His face looks like he just wants to stop what he’s doing but he’s being forced to eat his child.

  58. Joli says:

    When I see this painting i can almost feel the arm in my mouth and the hands in my back. The scary thing is not the eating it’s the relatability of this painting the fear in saturns eyes and the pain you can see and feel.

  59. willanderson1983 says:

    Guernica gets my vote.

  60. Void_SpecialistxxX says:

    So terrifying for me,Los Caprichos seems connected to capricorn zodiac sign.According to zodiac sign,they hate everything at some point and passionate hurting they love specially family.

  61. Eddie Becerra says:

    I go back and watch this video once every few months

  62. kalaido says:

    04:39 this literally terrifies me.

  63. Max Calliope says:

    i'm really fascinated

  64. pascuadog says:

    Excellent. Congratulations. Spaniard from Madrid. I´m a Museo del Prado fan. Goya´s Black Paintings section is one of my favourites, I often revisited it. Your video has urge me to bring forward my next visit so to see this painting with enriched light. Thanks.

  65. MrRobot600 says:

    It's important to note that Goya didn't name his paintings. So, I don't understand why other people named this painting "Saturn devouring his son." Goya might have drawn influence from it but he molded into something specific to him

  66. NC 13582247 says:

    Saturn's face is me when my parents catch me eating shredded cheese straight out of the bag at 2AM on a school night

  67. Pau Pau says:

    I remembered when Saturn Devouring His Son was shown to us for our Art Appreciation class this semester, and I couldn't even stomach looking at it for very long. The goriness, the crazed expression, the bloody child clutched in its hands— it made me feel like throwing up and groaning at how grotesque the entire thing is. I was just lucky that we have a sympathetic prof who clicked to the next slide while explaining the whole thing 😂😂

  68. jason says:

    i have a project on this guy for english

  69. Latioswar showdown says:

    I think this represents change was inevitable and those scared eyes is the king trying to prevent the world from catching on to democracy he knows it will happen but not this time

  70. misha says:

    dude your art interp videos are so badass. pls do more

  71. Arcadian Sounds says:

    that slightly muffled, crunch chew at the end of the story… oof, so well crafted, took me by pleaseant surpise. awesome job!

  72. Aitana Ruiz Serrano says:

    Well imagine seeing it in a school trip being only 8 years old :))))))) Now I appreciate it and I'm able to admire his technique and importance, but I used to be terrified of even walking into that "dark paintings" 'room

  73. Romy DelPo says:

    He’s eating his tampon, not his kid

  74. Main Stream Gaming says:

    I was doing research in school about Kronos, and I went on wiki and saw this picture. So I was talking about it to my friend, and the teacher came over and I almost got in trouble.

  75. Oh Okay says:

    This is scary and all but I gotta give you points for that asmr in the beginning 😂

  76. REO Inu.Speedwagon says:

    Yusuke does not approve of this

  77. TheUnatuber says:

    What about The Damned, also by Goya?

  78. Kevin Génez says:

    Es un titan

  79. Midnight Moonbeam says:

    This, and the 3 studies by Francis Bacon are the only paintings that have ever disturbed me, they all contain such visceral emotions, what emotions they are exactly I don't know and that uncertainty is why they give me a fear/disgust reaction.

  80. Yeva Bog says:

    This was incredible!! You did an excellent job!

  81. The 'F word says:

    The worst part is this was recommended to me at 1am..

  82. ahja indeed says:

    His neck

  83. Christopher Nettles says:

    Horrific intro. Thanks

  84. benjamin_L 2 says:

    Well i guess i'm gonna have nightmares for 5 years and i'm never gonna be able to trust anybody anymore because i'm to paranoid

  85. lyco46 says:

    I wonder why 🐈🥩🐕🥓🐬🥩🐖🥓🐋🥩🐈🥩🐄🥩🐄🥩🐑🥩🐠🥩🐠🥩🐅🥩🐊🥩

    It’s disturbing when we can eat plants instead of this clearly evil 🐬🥩🐕🥩🐖🥓 unnecessary 🌱 behaviour of brutally murdering each other’s ‘children’ by eating their flesh when we can eat plants instead

    Human is the name for an ape

    FEAR 🥩

  86. Jesus Christ says:

    Imagine the portraits creepypasta but instead of horrifying faces it's paintings like these

  87. Kailee Girl says:

    Truly great intro. Shivers down my spine…

  88. Anurag Gupta says:

    I love your videossssss

  89. Ray Last says:

    Pickman‘s Model, anyone?

  90. Ray Last says:

    The longer I think about it the more disturbingly accurate I think the story of Saturn is. Every existing ruling class is threatened by the ascend of the next one. But the only way to stop the loss of power is to drown progress in blood every few decades. And as horrifying as this may be, they have always done it, in the end. The painting makes a lot of sense if you look at it like that. Saturn really does devour his sons in real life.

    Spain experienced that quite painfully in the first half of the 20th century, culminating in several decades of fascist rule which still mark the country.

  91. Froehlig Girlz says:

    Just watched "Polly" and "Truman Show" vids. Freaking brilliant AI-created playlist.

  92. Froehlig Girlz says:


  93. scooptime says:


  94. B00STed says:

    i'm pretty sure that's a picture of Tarrare that ate baby due to his disease i think it was but yeah that's not Saturn and Tarrare was French not Spanish and this happened during the war in the late 1700s

  95. Devin Giltner says:

    Goya has a bluntness that focuses more on raw emotion, and honestly never strikes me as beautiful, but is certainly outstanding and demands the eye's attention.

  96. Imani Culver says:

    That painting gives me the same feeling Beowulf gave me

  97. Do you know the way? says:

    The monster face similar to Albert Einstein because of his nose, hair and the eyes too serious don't argue with me ok 0:48

  98. Sofia the Greatest says:

    In school we had to do a assignment about Greek and Roman mythology, and then me and my friend came across the painting…

  99. vjm3 says:

    The crunching is a nice touch, but the slurping open mouth chewing is unacceptable. Don't do that.

  100. hemorrhoid crème says:

    this and Repins "Ivan the terrible and his son" painting are the most emotionally haunting pieces imo (and they're both oddly related to sons too)

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