Saturday, January 26, 2008


George Frederic Watts 1817-1904
Mammon 1884-5
Oil on canvas
support: 1829 x 1060 mm
Tate Britain, London

This is a powerful picture with powerful social comment.

Mammon, the god of money, is represented as a tyrant on a throne. Note the small skulls on either side on the back of the throne.

He nurses money bags in his lap and two youthful figures (one female ?, the other male) are crushed by his monstrous power. They are deprived of life.

Mammon is surounded by the accoutrements of wealth: the crown or diadem, the fine clothes, the elegant suroundings.

This is one of a series of paintings in which George Frederick Watts criticised modern commerce and its de-humanising effect on the nation.

Watts subtitled the picture Dedicated to his Worshippers, as if inscribing a monument.

He apparently had plans to commission a sculpture of Mammon for Hyde Park where he hoped the god’s followers ‘would be at least honest enough to bow the knee publicly to him’.