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The basis of this picture is made up of ancient myths that tell of the last refuge of dead heroes and those whom the gods loved. They rest on a lonely island, lost from human eyes. The shores of the island are washed by the waters of an underground river, which has crystal clear waters with a specular reflection. The picture shows how the boatman transport one of the departed to the place of his eternal life.
In the center of the island cypresses rise to the sky. According to the artist, they should symbolize the sorrow and mourning that accompany each death. Like them, the soul of the deceased rises on the edge of the boat in white robes, so sharply contrasting with the surrounding background. The sky itself is densely covered with dark, sometimes lead clouds, which are ready at any moment to bring down many liters of water.
For some reason, neither the boat nor the people sitting in it are displayed in the mirror water. Perhaps the artist thereby demonstrates that the deceased are completely deleted from the world, and therefore even the waters do not show them to mere mortals.
The size of the island for some reason is too small. Perhaps this is because there are not so many heroes and favorites of the gods that there is a need for a large area of their place of residence.
It is worth noting that the reproduction presented in the picture is only the second version of the work. In total, Becklin created five different variants of the “Isle of the Dead”, differing from each other in a set of primary colors (there are lighter and also “warmer” versions), but also the whole composition. For the most part, the island changes shape: on one of the canvases, the cypresses “climbed” onto the roof of the building, on the other, the house resembles a Romanesque style of architecture, in the third variant, the holes hollowed out in the rock are more like the crypts of commoners. The same applies to the sky: somewhere it is dark, raging; and on the second canvas it pleases with morning colors. Only the figure of the deceased remains unchanged.
Goya The Dream of Reason Gives Beasts