Letter: 'Sick trash' from anguish of Goya

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Sir: Your piece on the contemporary art market ('Arresting art explores dark side of humanity', 10 October) reports that Charles Saatchi has paid pounds 18,000 for a sculpture assembled from shop mannequins and based on one of Goya's most disturbing images of his Disasters of War series. The article said: 'It depicts three members of the Spanish resistance who have been stripped, castrated and tied to a tree.'

Perhaps it is a philosophical point to discuss the 'nationality' of mutilated corpses, but Goya's image actually portrays the bodies of three French soldiers who fell into the hands of Spanish partisans. The significance is that Disasters are not chauvinist propaganda cataloguing the outrages of an invading army but deal with the horrors of war. Goya was courageous enough to depict atrocities committed by both sides.

Goya's original work shows atrocity feeding on atrocity and is a powerful indictment of the brutalities of war, as relevant to Bosnia today as to Spain in the last century. Yet the artists of the sculpture assembly described in your article call the horrific image of dismembered corpses 'an object of pleasurable transgression'. While it would be thus easy to dismiss the artists as the peddlers of sick trash, perhaps the pertinent question might be to ask why Charles Saatchi is giving them money.

Yours sincerely,


Farnham, Surrey

13 October