Guernica has been the subject of more books than any other work in modern art and it is often described as..."the most important work of art of the twentieth century", yet its meanings have to this day eluded some of the most renowned scholars.Four years research into an unauthenticated Picasso drawing of a crucifixion, dated 12 May, 1934, has provided a wealth of new information about Picasso's use of symbolism.
The figure falling across the Harlequin's face which is often assumed to be a woman, in fact bears a strong resemblance to Picasso, who appears to be identifying with the victims of the bombing.
The next Harlequin image is again inverted and can be seen to the right of the previous Harlequin.He is identifiable from his patchwork costume and triangular hat and appears to be kneeling on the ground as if watching the puppet show taking place opposite.
The preoccupying theme of Guernica is of course death; reinforcing this, in the centre of the painting is a hidden skull which dominates the viewer's subliminal impressions.The skull is shown sideways and has been ingeniously overlaid onto the body of the horse, which is also a death symbol.
Guernica - the tension between art and politics
The hat is peaked with a crocodile's jaw and his square mouth and face when viewed the right way up takes on the form of a traditional puppeteer's theatre.The Crocodile and the Harlequin are common characters in Punch and Judy shows, their inclusion in Guernica stems from Picasso's love of puppetry which began before the turn of the century in Barcelona where he saw many such shows and even helped produce them with Pere Romeu at Els Quatre Ghats .