If someone asked me which is the biggest lesson I learned from The Godfather, my answer would be just one word: revenge. That action that most viewers consider as miserable and dishonorable is a necessary evil in this world where everyone is trying to take advantage of you. How could we forget the lesson Johnny Fontane gave to Jack Woltz when he humiliated him on the phone? We shouldn’t just label the decapitation of Khartoum, the racehorse, as a cruel act; it is the event that made Fontane reinforce the fact that no one, not even a famous director, is above him.
Vengeance is in our genetic code; we’re born with it. It’s that small portion of dirt that runs through our veins. In fact, although many try to deny it, we’re always thinking about retaliation when someone hurts us; but first let’s talk about betrayal, because there’s simply nothing that can hurt us more than that. It’s painful to lose trust in someone close to us; it makes us feel vulnerable and lonely to the extent that the only thing we can do to feel some respite is to get defensive and fight with anything that might threaten us.
Betrayal and revenge are as human as forgiveness; they’ve settled in many aspects of our lives. Even in art, they have a special spot; different artists have taken these emotions as central themes to portray many events in history.
:: Saturn Devouring his Son (1823) –Francisco de Goya
When Chronos found out that he was going to be killed by one of his sons, he decided to devour all of them to prevent his dark fate. But little did he know that Zeus was hiding and waiting for the right moment to murder him and take the power his father had sadistically devoured.
–Prometheus Bound (1612) –Pedro Pablo Rubens and Frans Snyders
The punishment Prometheus received after giving the gift of fire to mankind is one of the clearest lessons we can learn from mythology: there’s no greater treason than the one committed towards a deity, particularly a Greek God, since they’re known to be the most vengeful beings of history.
–Leda and the Swan (1515) –Leonardo da Vinci
One of the most human characteristics of Greek deities is embodied in Zeus’ promiscuity, who would use scams to seduce any maiden he wanted to possess. One of them was Leda, who he deceived by turning into a beautiful swan.
–Cain and Abel (1544) –Tiziano
This is one of the most famous vengeful moments in history: the moment Cain realized God preferred his brother’s tribute. Blinded by envy, he decided to murder his brother Abel so that God wouldn’t have another person to favor other than himself.
–Judith and Holofernes (1599) –Caravaggio
This painting shows us what a person is capable of doing to save their people from devastation. It’s the bloody moment when Judith takes advantage of Holofernes’ drunkenness to decapitate him and, thus, avoid the invasion of Betulia, her hometown.
–The Taking of Christ (1602) –Caravaggio
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the most hated characters of history, the one that betrayed God’s son with a kiss: Judas. Caravaggio depicted the exact moment when Judas shows the guards who is the man they must arrest.
–The Treachery of Images (1929)- René Magritte
In this series of paintings, Magritte shows us that art, in reality, is a great betrayal to spectators, since underneath the pipe he adds the phrase «Ceci n’est pas une pipe» (This is not a pipe), although the image of the pipe is saying the opposite.
Maybe one day we’ll realize that revenge is a healthier solution than forgiveness, since it’s always necessary to free ourselves from everything burning inside of us. As Machiavelli said: “People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage, they will get their revenge, but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.”
If you want to know more about the reflection of humanity’s emotions in art, check these:
Paintings That Show What It Feels Like To Live With Depression
Soul-Wrenching Paintings Only The Brave Can Admire
::Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards