I recently stumbled upon a 14th c. image of the Castration of Uranus . It was of course disturbing , but also fascinating. I felt compelled to add my voice to the conversation and the following drawing is the result.
The Castration of Uranus
graphite and colored pencil on paper
11 by 14″
The story, in case forgotten, is that the old god Uranus had fathered the Titans (and the Cyclops) with the Earth Mother Gaia. As is so often the case the father became wary of the offspring and buries those born of his seed deep within Tartarus -so deep in fact, “it would take a falling anvil nine days to reach the bottom”.
Gaia prompts her Titan son Cronus to smite his father, arming him with the familiar scythe of Time. Unbeknownst to me, but fortunate coincidence, Cronus, according to the mythologist Robert Graves, “grasp[ed] his genitals with the left hand (which has ever since been the hand off ill-omen”. This merciless act produced the vengeful Furies and from the severed penis, when thrown into the whirling ocean, the eternal Aphrodite.
The story is stunning in its primal psychological symbolism; incomprehensible yet visceral. At least I felt so, hence this drawing.
The following is the wonderful illumination that inspired my own, I am sorry to say I do not know its source, any information pertaining to it most welcome.
That said, this image is a bit confusing to me. When first stumbled upon, source being unremembered, it was identified as Saturn Devouring his Son (ca.1501). I think that is off, Cronus/Saturn would eventually devours his Olympian young (as magnificently represented by Rubens), perhaps the artist was confused as I haven’t stumbled upon Zeus/Jupiter castrating Cronus/Saturn. I believe this image simply illustrates Cronus castrating Uranus with the prophetic image of Aphrodite in the background. The bloody child-devouring a cinematic bit of excess to gets one’s attention-if severed genitals weren’t enough. It is perplexing that the castrated figure is wielding the Cronus’ scythe of Time. Whatever, its a grand image.
First day back to the studio, now I will try painting , I feel quite rusty…and anxious.Will keep my progress posted, until then, be well, LG
5 thoughts on “The Castration of Uranus”
Wow, how’s that for a dramatic subject – and the way you paint the blood flowing from the wound is both poetic and gory it’s brilliant. The expressions you capture on each character’s face is so delicate too, perfectly complimenting the drama of the scene. Well, you sure don’t look rusty Leonard, and hope the anxiety ebbs away.
I was pleasantly surprised to stumble into your artwork this evening. You have made an evocative depiction of the age-old Greek myth. I particularly like your artistic interpretation of Uranus himself, even in his castration he exudes a kind of cold power, and the faces in his stomach are haunting.
I’m also deeply intrigued by your source of inspiration. I’m a medieval historian, so I would very much like to know where you found this illumination so I’d get a better idea of its context and function.
Two years have passed since you posted this, but I do hope your artistic anxiety has diminished. This artwork certainly did not look rusty to me.
Hello, thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments . I’m very pleased you like the drawing . As you mentioned it was drawn a few years ago , I should pull it out and look at it once again .
I wish I knew where that original image came from . I was sloppy in documenting sources back then ( I now am more scrupulous in citation ). I’m sorry I’m not much help .
That you are a medieval historian delights me and your praise more valued . I consider my work Neo medievalist, endlessly fascinated by illuminations of the period.
Thank you again ,
So delighted to come across your dramatic, amazing art! You are very gifted in expressing the dark side we must all look at and bring to the light. Yes, it may be gruesome, but somehow, the color and the light make it almost beautiful, which is the point, isn’t it. I have a very close friend who has a “castration fantasy.” I don’t judge and I am so elated to find your art. His birthday is coming out, and I would never have been able to give him a better gift than this web address! You are very gifted. – Mary Jane, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Oh I’m glad .
It is an odd theme isn’t it , glad you were able to find value in it and please do share it with your friend .