Saturday, February 26, 2011
Pablo Picasso's Guernica happens to be one of my favorite paintings, so I decided to elaborate upon what we learned in class on Thursday. I have circled some of the "hidden" elements of the painting (you might have to click on the image for a full-size version, as the circles are very thin). The red circle around the horse's mouth contains a human skull hidden in plain view. Immediately to the left, in the background of the painting, sits a bird, perhaps a dove, circled in light blue. This symbol of peace juxtaposes with the symbol of death, though its relative obscurity suggests that an end to fighting might still be far off. The dead soldier's arms are circled in violet; they are covered in distinctive scratches and piercings known as stigmata. Stigmata are characteristic of crucifixion wounds, suggesting that the soldier is a martyr of sorts. It is also interesting to note that the broken sword held in the soldier's severed right hand is upside down. Though I do not know if holding a sword in such a way has any traditional symbolic meaning, it is a powerful image that suggests vulnerability. Finally, circled in green, there is the mysterious face of a second bull which emerges from the horse's front leg. Picasso included the horse and bull characters in the painting as symbols of Spain; however, this hidden bull appears much more sinister. Its horn points directly toward the horse's wounded side. The meaning of this face (and of the horse and bull imagery in general) has been much debated by critics. Picasso explicitly declined to comment on the significance of his imagery, and no definitive conclusions have been reached. What do you all think of these elements? What do they mean? Can anybody find other features of the painting that I may have missed?