The greatest painting ever painted

The Minotaur 1885 by George Frederic Watts 1817-1904

George Frederic Watts, The Minotaur (1885)

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Posted in art. 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “The greatest painting ever painted”

  1. kainzow06 Says:

    Indeed it is really great! I have never stumbled on this painting before!
    It depicts the Minotaur in a very different light!

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    If you zoom in, you can see a ship in the distance — that’s what he seems to be looking so longingly at.

  3. mattintoledo Says:

    This is the second time I’ve seen you share it, and the title of the post made me look at it a little harder. Thank you for pointing out the ship. It made me wonder whether the minotaur just noticed it by chance or if he runs out to that balcony to watch ships all the time.

  4. jordanstfrancis Says:

    Why, in your opinion, is it the greatest? For aesthetic reasons, or? Is it perhaps because the Minotaur, the monster of the labyrinth, is crushing the bird under his hand as though he is enraged by its ability to fly, jealous of its freedom while he himself is longing to be similar? To venture a guess, it is perhaps a humanizing, and therefore even all the more disturbing, picture of something that haunts the halls of captivity. His desire to be free makes him hate freedom. The ‘friend’ in our ‘enemy’ is what makes him even more dangerous?

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I don’t think it’s actually “the greatest” in any meaningful way. It’s just so bizarre… it has stuck with me.

  6. mattintoledo Says:

    Boy, this link sure pours cold water on my assumption that he was looking longingly at the ship because of his isolation and captivity. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/watts-the-minotaur-n01634/text-summary

  7. Craig McFarlane Says:

    The triangle in question looks like a rock to me. It’s painted in the same shades as the land mass on the right.

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Yeah, that explanation of the painting portrays it in a very different light than I initially perceived it. I like my version better.

  9. Craig McFarlane Says:

    I kept looking at it–like in “Clerks”–not being able to see the boat. All I saw was a jagged rock.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Does it help if I say only the sail is visible?

  11. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Sure, but where’s the boat? I find the idea of a minotaur staring at a sinking boat with bemused curiosity much more interesting than him looking at a regular boat. Bemused contemplation of a point on the shore is also more compelling than a regular sail boat.

  12. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Maybe it’s so far away that all you can really make out is the big white sail! Plus the boat is carrying the human being he gets to eat, which surely you can get behind.

  13. ben Says:

    It’s clearly an upright sail; the boat is … beneath it? I don’t understand this line of inquiry.

    The reading Matt linked does make more sense of the bird in the minotaur’s hand.

  14. Asteele Says:

    It’s the greatest because his horns look like a little horn-hat, a daring look to pair with nuidity.

  15. Jon Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, this painting was also the inspiration for a good Borges story, “The House of Asterion”.

  16. doug Says:

    The bird makes me think of daedelus and icarus who were allowed to escape/almost escape the minotaur’s labyrinth by means of artificial wings.

    Crushing the bird may then give the minotaur a sense of its failure (to have let men escape), its power (to crush those who would be free), and its limitations (to never itself be free) all at once. The “free” people he sees on the ship are being sent to his labyrinth for him to crush, but he will never be able to leave crete. His jealousy turns to spite and he crushes his desire like the bird. He then looks at the boat longingly in two senses: He wants to be them; he wants to crush them.


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