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There are so many similarities between 1934 drawing and Guernica that it seems certain to be an important but unknown precursor to Picasso's greatest painting.
Like the drawing, Guernica is also full of hidden images and themes, consequently, almost every line and shape in it is meaningful, either in the context of what it represents or what it is concealing.
The themes of death, the bullfight and the crucifixion are common to both pictures.
The Guernica bull is very like the bull in the drawing, both are huge, in profile and stand motionless observing the scene before them.
There is a strong similarity in the dramatic clashing of light and dark tones and the overhead light sources in both pictures.
In both Guernica and the 1934 drawing there is a second bull's head concealed below the horse.
The head of the woman with the lamp in Guernica swoops downwards from the upper right corner in exactly the same way as does the head of the hidden Lucifer in the drawing. Lucifer means 'the light bringer' and is related symbolically to Venus, the Morning Star. She represents the evil of the physical world.
The fallen warrior in Guernica is very similar to the central figure in the 1934 drawing, both are in the crucifixion pose and both have severed arms, identifying them symbolically with Picasso. The fallen warrior, like the central figure in the drawing, is also relatable to Parsifal, because of the broken sword in his hand. Parsival was given a magnificent sword which breaks in two at a crucial moment in battle.
In the centre of Guernica there is a human skull concealed within the body and legs of the wounded horse.
Both pictures contain the same overlaying of horse and skull in the centre.
In Guernica the horse has been stabbed by a spear, a symbol representing Picasso-the first four letters of his name mean spear in Spanish. The diamond tip of the spear represents harlequin, who like Christ has a mystical power over death.
The Guernica spear also has a relationship to the broad paintbrush in the 1934 drawing. This has been overlaid on to the skull within the area of the concealed horse. In Guernica we find the skull penetrated by a spear within the horse. Picasso would have certainly made the association between a wet paintbrush and a spear in his childhood. Therefore it seems plausible from the placing of the paintbrush in the 1934 drawing, that the Guernica spear, is also a cryptic representation of Picasso's paintbrush, partly because of its similar appearance and partly because of its connection to Picasso's remarks about painting being a weapon,
'No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. its an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.'
The Guernica spear penetrates a cryptic representation of Hitler in the centre of the composition. In the centre of the 1934 drawing there is also a concealed portrait of Hitler.
In the 1934 drawing, Picasso takes possession of the spear from Klingsor, who is strongly associated with Hitler. In Guernica, the artist continues this Wagnerian narrative by stabbing Hitler with the spear, which has now been transformed into a talisman of Picasso's personal mystical symbols.
Picasso was very secretive about the meanings of Guernica and would only talk about it in a guarded and superficial way, yet the mysteries of its imagery have given rise to more art historical interpretations than any other picture in history. Surprisingly, nearly all of these scholarly interpretations are oblivious to Guernica's concealed imagery.
© Mark Harris 1996, 1997
Next Section: Themes of the 1934 Drawing
© 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