Goya’s War on Neptune

Posted: September 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Two Old Men Eating Soup

The last paintings on plaster of his house, Black Paintings in Single Format Wikipedia, transferred to canvas are too much for youth. They are his last and if they signify madness that is too early a presumption. Lesser travesties of destroyed form, a lower order not carried to completion so as not to celebrate death,  after much pondering are seen as depth, even if they are giant forms. To transfer the thought to Goya, who did these in his seventies, the age when you know what comes, those frescoes bloomed, whitened, darkened, cracked and spalled though the war with Neptune and all fight had in that moment been lost, except for the patron’s restoration (41).

Pilgrimage of San Isidro

I was reading in the early pages of Hughes when the eye misread a phrase as War on Neptune, completely as though it were written to see. Later I went back and could not find the spot.  What is a war on Neptune, against Neptune, with? Neptune it was that condemned Troy. Caligula is noted for his war against Neptune, rather a precursor of all the real wars turned faux by the perps. More than Caligula, nothing is suitable to contemplate with Goya’s Saturn and his Caprichos edition of plates, an edition burned by Ruskin and one seen in the Imaginary Prisons of Giambattista Piranesi. What is meant by Old Testament is a conflict  of forces of which human war is a lower order.

The Dog

Hear the words, but the mind, the mental fantasy disassociates provoked by the unremembered, the unthought, the unbelieved, what you hear in the ear from the housetops. The last paintings on plaster of his house transferred to canvas are too much for youth to take. They are of his last and if they signify madness that is too early a  presumption. After much pondering see in them depth, even if they are of giant forms.

Fantastic vision

So to transfer the thought to Goya, who did these in his seventies, the age when you know what comes, get Hughes out, knowing those frescoes bloomed, whitened, darkened, cracked and spalled, as though the war with Neptune and all fight had in that moment been lost, except for the patron’s restoration (41) when the words are rods and cones speak; maybe listen.

Goya confronts evil beyond light, dark and the dynamism of figures as Old Testament as the witch of Endor, the lusts of Midian, worship of Mammon-Saturn, the giants, book of Enoch, tortures and angels, phantasmagoria, delirium of sickness, old age, alienation. Goya is 72, lives in that farmhouse four years, then heads to France. He knows the supernatural contexts, the Roman emperor worship, the war between the states of dark and light, the architectural testimonies at the Capitol Mall, in the streets, the oldest conflict between the serpent and seed of the woman, the Bohemian Grove. He doesn’t paint Balaam, but Judith. Hughes reaches for de Sade to explain the dark, but it is darker than that.s not the war with Neptune the war of the Colosi (286)? War on Neptune is however nebulous. The atmosphere swims. one cannot see feet – he that is washed needs not save to wash his feet.  Is not the war with Neptune the war of the Colosi(286)? War on Neptune is however nebulous.


The atmosphere swims. one cannot see feet. Hands are ideas coming and going, to translate paint into words, but to no known purpose, as if one were to hear that it should all be banned as inappropriate nonsense, a message any writer wants to hear because it validates the kick to provoke piety from the unrighteous, to no high purpose, yet if piety is provoked that is not say without sensibility, which is of a high order even if they cannot hear.

Fight with Cudgels

Scientists cannot see that torturing a rabbit for the good of mankind is the same as making Jesus a king by force (Jn 6.15). There exists both an inappropriate analogy and a comparison which leads to the inherent disproportion of Goya’s hand in his portraits that makes the later figures so striking in their darkness, not just Saturn but the Pilgrimage of San Isidro. Hughes likens it  to a cobra slithering into the face of the paint, its eye a foreground guitarist, conte jondo, (18), an assault on all hearing, silence, ocher, umber, black in the background, not the insipid green trees, white clouds, blue sky formula of the Assault of Thieves and the portraits, even the repeated ritual positions of death, face down with scrabbling hands (124). These pastel unblemished faces like the Family of the Duke of Osuna are  insipid, but the disproportion of the long faces and noses (54, 119) prepares for the assault, the distortion war of Neptune such as in Frank Gehry’s buildings  idea wages in misconceit to house its opposite. Now that sounds like earth except earth has morals Neptune has rammed down nearly everywhere. War does not contain peace the way a villain’s smile contains goodness. Transparent it becomes either deceit or itself. Do not listen to the words.

Not old enough to fathom Goya’s Saturn nor his witches in Caprichos, his prisons, wars? None are. Shut the mouth of insight. What happened to Goya happened to Borges. Each had a transforming sickness (127) that produced this depth.  Goya was struck at about 46 with deafness that took the form of delirium  for several months. It changed the way he saw the world. Borges ran up a stair at age 38 and ran into a glass door.  The cuts became infected and he suffered a month with severe infection and fever, a mort. His mother read Out of the Silent Planetto him, which had just been published, 1939. The next thing he wrote was Pierre Menard and it was off to the spaces. They looked in the face of sickness, depravity, war.  Looks forced. A natural transforming artist in youth, before the face shall we say, is concerned he is not transformed.

Procession of the Holy Office

None of us know till after we were. Daily touches of the depraved, the wretched, misshapen, devastated,  know not in his mind what heart compassed. We need not pray to be touched.

The continual images in Goya of doubt, night, owls, dark shapes, cannibalism, pederasty, witchery, simony, truly a demonic Dante, are all in some sort the dementias of reason which cannot understand because it wants to deny what is going on right by its nose, so invents all those theories of philosophy to explain to itself what it cannot bear to see, the depravity of the world alleviated only by the compassion of those who serve with sponges and rags and bowls of water, none worse than los desastres de la guerra, those licensed depravities committed by “our heroes,” who we hide in graves.

Hughes in his infantude came to the US in 1970 from the Aussie fields, “riven” he says with certitude. He only wrote Goya after a near fatal auto accident 30 years later, where he hung between his own months and was tortured by Goya and his school with rejection, then, he wrote. That we understand. He says of ourselves that even now no voice has compassed the depravity of Little Boy, the bomb (7), or Auschwitz, but he is not Itaku. He wants the modern, irreverent attitude, skeptic against the official, the radical to deliver this insight, but turn from your wicked ways? See into the matrix blinding all around meaning our own blind deaf ways? No spark of impiety against unrighteousness, the 50 million dead babies all good democrats want to build their homes upon. No, this doesn’t go on. There is no more. Oh no. Not never Caprichos or Black Paintings.

To get more analytical, a triangulation in Goya, Pilgrimage of St Isidro c. 1821, what Hughes calls a cobra striking in the face of the paint, makes the isosceles of St. Isidro’s Meadow perfected in the serpentine, the sinuous motion of all progress, the pilgrims, not the black and white oppositions of Euclid, more the gradual turns of river of Chuang Tzu. Of compositional structures reduced to geometrical formula, “he loves the diagonal and constantly uses it as the basis of his groups and figures” (206). That and the dark masses of black, ocher,  umber bulked up against bodies and walls, both in the great paintings and Caprichos via aquatint, an assault against silence from the deaf (18) painter, or against words that cannot fathom?  In Equestrian Portrait of General Palafox, 1814, “the white part of the horse’s body forms a rough arc, tied together (as it were) at the top by the crimson loop and knot of Palafox’s sash…this major arc is echoes by a minor one above: the white fur trim of Palafox’s hat.” 278. Bottom line, Goya is a primitive, his portraits are sometimes near caricature. He can’t help it, the primitive always, sometimes escaped, but back home his Water Carrier, Knife Grinder, The Forge are of the same time as The Colossus (1810), “low-class, low-origin, lowbrow” 285, just the kind of people  we like, of the earth, without pretense. The Giant above and beyond in stature is of this origin which explains its appeal. Continue below next.

The War On Neptune @ Full of Crow here


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