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In 1931, Universal Studios released the movie 'Frankenstein,' in which the monster as most of us recognise him today made his first appearance. The 1934 drawing appears to contain an inverted double portrait of Frankenstein's monster derived from this movie.
Picasso, who was often described as a monster, loved the cinema and probably saw the 1931 'Frankenstein' soon after its release in France. It appears clear from the drawing that he went on to identify a number of symbolic associations between himself and the monster and identified other symbolic associations between the monster and Hitler's Aryan Superman.
Frankenstein's monster, like Oedipus and Picasso, were all in a sense responsible for the destruction of their fathers*. All three also suffered a form of blindness; Picasso symbolically, Oedipus by self infliction and Frankenstein's monster because at first his eyes were too sensitive to light.
All three also underwent a form of crucifixion; Picasso symbolically, Oedipus when he is exposed by his father, the monster when he is created as well as when he dies under the sign of a burning cross. Finally, all three also experienced a form of exile; Picasso at the turn of the century in Paris and again in the 1930's as a protest against Franco, Oedipus by his own edict and the monster by being violently ostracised from the day of his creation.
The Hanged Man symbol with which Picasso closely associated also features in the movie when parts of a dead body are stolen from a gallows to be used for the creation of the monster.
A further association involves the monster's huge feet which Picasso would have related to the 'Swollen Feet' of his alter ego Oedipus and later with the artist 'Big Foot' in his play 'Desire Caught by the Tail.'
The only real human contact the monster makes is with a little girl called Maria who picks some flowers and offers one to the monster. The flower girl is another important Picasso theme. In the movie, after the monster inadvertent kills her, the flower girl makes an important reappearance in the guise of Dr Frankenstein's bride holding a wedding bouquet.
The concealed, inverted portrait of the monster in the 1934 drawing appears to have its right eye hanging out, which is a detail that seems to link him symbolically with Odin who had to pull out one of his eyes and hang inverted from a tree. The monster's one good eye, by association, can be seen as a reference to the third eye.
In regard to the 1934 drawing's concentration of Germanic themes, it would seem that the Frankenstein image is linked with the theme of Hitler and the Third Reich.
According to Rauschning Hitler often talked about the Aryan Superman having a Cyclops eye.
'Some men can already activate their pineal glands to give a limited vision into the secrets of time...but the new type of man will be equipped for such vision in the same manner as we now see with our physical eyes', Hitler said.
He also believed that the Supermen would be in our midst in a short time. They would have superhuman strength and powers and nothing would be hidden from their vision and no power on Earth would prevail against them. 'They would be the Sons of the Gods,' he said.
Picasso would have certainly known about Neitzsche's Superman from whom Hitler's concept of the 'new man' was partially derived, he also appears to have known it was Hitler's intention to create such a monster who in the drawing he relates to Frankenstein's monster because he is a similar type of man made man, a criminal who is more dead than alive, a creature of hell and destruction. This association seems to be all the more appropriate because hidden within the face of the monster in the drawing, there appears to be an amorphous portrait of Hitler.
The drawing also contains other apparent references to the Third Reich, an SS symbol, a concentration of related Germanic and occult themes and perhaps the suggestion in the drawing that the dominant force (Nazi Germany) on the right is making a brutal attack on the helpless victim (Europe) on the left.
The 1934 drawing contains an astonishing interrelationship of themes pertaining to Picasso, Christ, Hitler, Odin, Oedipus, Frankenstein's monster and to the flower girls who feature in a number of early Picasso pictures and significantly, also in Wagner's opera Parsifal.
© Mark Harris 1996
* The death of Dr Frankenstein is alluded to but left somewhat ambiguous at the end of the movie, presumably in order to have a happy ending.
Further Reading: The Spear of Destiny, by Trevor Ravenscroft, Published by Neville Spearman, London, 1974.
Next Section: Alchemical Contexts
© Mark Harris 1996 (content), Simon Banton 1996 (design)
In general copyright of works by Pablo Picasso are the property of the heirs to the Pablo Picasso estate