Artibus et Historiae no. 12 (VI)

1985, ISSN 0391-9064

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RACHEL WISCHNITZER - Picasso's Guernica. A Matter of Metaphor

In Guernica Picasso uses the imagery of the bullfight. However, he reverses the relationship between the bull and a victim, the horse, by referring to the legend of Bellerophon's taming of Pegasus. In Picasso's first preliminary drawing, the tame, friendly bull is shown with the trusting horse resting by his side. As the horse gains in strength and dignity, and moves closer to the kerosene lamp, he becomes "radicalized", while the bull, alienated, disappears from the scene. These developments may be observed in the drawings and photographs of various stages of the painting that have been preserved. The woman's head flying in through the window from "outside" represents Russia. The kerosene lamp she brings in alludes to the help Russia gave the Republican Government, the Loyalists, during the Spanish Civil War (1937). The electric bulb represents the industrial countries France and Great Britain which maintained neutrality. The significance of the kerosene lamp is emphasized by the woman on the lower right, a victim recovering from shock or trauma, who gazes intently at the lamp. The man lying on the ground, his head converted into a bust with classical associations, tells the story of Guernica.

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