Saturn Devouring one of his Children

Simon Hurtrelleabout 1700

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Saturn, one of the Titans who once ruled earth in Roman mythology, devours the infant child he holds in his arm. According to a prophecy, Saturn would be overthrown by one of his sons. In response, he ate his sons as soon as they were born. But the mother of his children, Rhea, hid one child, Zeus. Later, Zeus gave his father a potion, forcing him to regurgitate his siblings; he then vanquished his father and ruled over earth, fulfilling the prophecy. Saturn's cannibalism is graphically shown here: in his left hand he holds a bone from one of his already eaten children while he partially ingests the child in his arm. Simon Hurtrelle represented Saturn as a powerful, yet elderly figure with wings. The wings suggest the speed of time and derive from the association of Saturn, also known as Cronos, with the Greek god of time, Chronus. Similarly, Saturn's loss of hair indicates the passing of time. The composition of the bronze was inspired by an antique Roman marble sculpture that Hurtrelle saw in Rome.

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