Today is Halloween, and it’s exactly because of it that we decided to present you this list. After all, art isn’t always bright and beautiful! (Just a fair warning, though: this week’s installment might not be for the faint-hearted!)
“Saturn Devouring His Son”
Artist: Francisco Goya
Year finished: 1823
Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s painting is just one of the 14 haunting oil paintings collectively known as the “Black Paintings” that he was said to have painted on the walls of the dining room of his house. This one in particular was his interpretation of the Greek myth that tells of the Titan Cronus, or Saturn in Roman mythology, eating each of his children upon their birth in fear of being removed from power by one of them. Goya never meant to have these paintings be shown to the public, although they were later on transferred to canvas for preservation at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.
“The Death of Marat”
Artist: Edvard Munch
Year finished: 1907
“Marat” is the French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. He was assassinated by a young woman named Charlotte Corday on July 13, 1793 while he was inside his bathtub, where he was said to have worked from most of the time while soaked in a medicinal bath for his skin disease. Corday was said to have gone to Marat’s home under the pretense of providing “vital” political information, and later on stabbed him on the chest with a kitchen knife that she hid inside her corset. An earlier oil painting by Jacques-Louis David depicted this incident, but Munch’s version feels raw and more gruesome.
“Dante and Virgil in Hell”
Artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Year finished: 1850
Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” is a literary classic that has been inspiring many artists from all generations over the centuries. One of them was the Frenchman Bouguereau, whose painting above was inspired by a scene from the epic poem’s first part, “Inferno”. Here we see Alighieri being accompanied by ancient Roman poet Virgil as they go through the eighth circle of Hell, the Malebolge (“evil ditches”), where people who have committed fraud and treachery go. The two prominent naked figures in the painting were said to be Gianni Schicchi (a man who had “usurped the identity of a dead man in order to fraudulently claim his inheritance”) and Cappochio (“a heretic and alchemist”), the first biting the neck of the latter.
“The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea”
Artist: William Blake
Year finished: 1805
This painting by the English poet and painter is part of “The Great Red Dragon Paintings”, a series of four equally horrific watercolor paintings featuring "The Great Red Dragon” from the Bible’s Book of Revelation. The fearsome creature was described as “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.”
“The Hands Resist Him”
Artist: Bill Stoneham
Year finished: 1972
If you’re a heavy user of the Internet, you might have already come across American artist Stoneham’s artwork under the title, “The eBay Haunted Painting.” This was because in 2000, an anonymous seller put this painting up for sale on eBay, claiming that it was “haunted” and “cursed.” The seller alleged that its previous owners have experienced “supernatural events” while it was under their possession, and that the images of the two children move at night! Interestingly, even simply looking at a photo of the painting is said to induce “terror attacks and fainting spells”! Despite these claims, the painting sold for $1,050. We’re not sure about this otherworldly aspect, but we’d have to say that just looking at the painting alone sure is uncomfortable – just look at the kids’ blank faces and those small hands pressing against the glass behind them! The first of “The Hands…” series, you may view its two sequels on the artist’s website here.
The idea for this article was based on the Top 10 Terrifying Paintings By Great Artists and 10 More Unsettling Paintings lists on Listverse; however, all information for each painting were sourced from the Wikipedia pages of Saturn Devouring His Son, Jean-Paul Marat, and The Great Red Dragon Paintings, the Musée d’Orsay , the Wikipaintings page of The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea, BBC, and the Museum of Hoaxes .
Like this article? Check out our Top Five List series in the Lomography magazine!