Eventually it was going to get to this point. Eventually I was going to get isolation brainrot so severe I actually wrote a full analysis of a piece of art that shows up, once, in the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon. In my defense, such as it is, they gave me something incredible to work with.
This piece is mural, explicitly described by the producers of the show to be based on Picasso’s monumental anti-war painting Guernica.
Guernica, completed over the course of 35 days in 1937, was created in response to the Nazi bombing of the Basque village, Guernica, at the behest of Franco’s Spanish Nationalists. Most of the men of the village were away, serving in the Republican army. Thus, the main casualties of the Guernica bombing were women and children.
Guernica is unmistakably Picassan. Is that a word? It is now. Confused, overlapping shapes create chaos even as the abstraction flattens the composition space. Form is unimportant. Instead, all focus is put on creating a dismal, raw picture of human and animal suffering. Black and white was used specifically to evoke the image of wartime photography. This is an image of the Idea of war, not the physical reality of combat or material expressions of grief and suffering. Because of this, and because there are no indicators of time or place, Guernica serves as a timeless condemnation of war.
This is nothing actual art historians haven’t said before. There are dozens of detailed analyses of this piece. For a more in-depth look, check out the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte’s website dedicated to it, Rethinking Guernica.
The Mandalorian Mural is seen in the home of Pre Vizsla, the governor of Concordia, one of the moons of Mandalore. It depicts a Mandalorian crusader killing a Jedi knight; its appearance is foreshadowing that Vizsla wishes to return to the old ways, and will serve as a direct antagonist to Obi-Wan. The Mandalorians and the Jedi have a long history of conflict, stemming from Mandalorian expansionism and irreconcilable cultural difference. While the Mandalorians place high value on family bonds and ties, and valorize the pursuit of personal glory, the Jedi teach detachment from emotions and from family. Eventually, the Mandalorian-Jedi conflict reached such violence that the planet Mandalore was nearly destroyed; much of the surface is currently inhospitable.
The Mandalorians restructured their society with the help of the Republic, focusing on pacificism and reconciliation, banishing violent elements to Concordia where, at the time of “Clone Wars,” it was believed they had died out. This inter-cultural conflict between the New Mandalorians and the Old Mandalorians (who often show up as the in-and-out-of-universe famous bounty hunters) forms the crux of their story in Clone Wars.
Apparently. I’ve never watched the entirity of Clone Wars, and what I have watched did not include the segment on Mandalore. I found the image, and the connecting information, here, on the wiki. Check it out for a more thorough description of the plot the mural appears in.
First up I would like to say that I admire the sheer gall of the producers of Clone Wars. Having a pastiche of one of the most stringently anti-war paintings ever produced be used to show a Cool Badass Mandalorian killing a Jedi, in the home of a war-mongering revanchist, is pretty bold. As I’ll discuss further down, there may be more to this than simple ballsiness, but that was my first impression.
Naturally, the similarities of the Mandalorian Mural to Guernica are numerous. The figure on the far left is lifted nearly directly from the painting. Bare-breasted, a woman flings back her head to scream over the corpse of her infant child. How this actually made it on air is beyond me, and neither here nor there. Most likely, this figure represents the citizenry of Mandalore, who must have died in droves during the devastation of the planet. Alternatively, considering the context, she could represent all the families who, in the view of conservative Mandalorian culture, have had their children stolen by the repugnant Jedi to be indoctrinated into their Force Wizard Cult.
The figure on the right is lifted from the original composition as well. However, it has been transformed from a woman running for her life from the bombings into a figure who attacks the central Mandalorian Crusader with a blaster. Like the original figure, this person is helpless to affect their circumstances. The Jedi has already been slain.
Unlike the rest of the piece, which is a very close stylistic pastiche of Picasso, the Crusader is portrayed in a markedly distinct style which most resembles classical Orthodox Iconography. The gesture resembles that of a saint offering benediction, especially in the detailed, naturalistic presentation of the hand and digits. The heavily stylized drapery also evokes the mantle of an icon. Suitably for a violent culture, rather than a circle, the Crusader is haloed by a starburst or explosion which echoes the shape of the muzzle flare on the blaster.
Sainted by their capacity for violence and the destruction of the opposing Jedi, the triumphant Crusader, rather than the suffering horse and trampled soldier of Guernica, serves as the centerpiece of this mural. Their sword is haloed much like them, by a moon that might be Concordia, where warlike Mandalorians were exiled after the devastation of the planet. A blaster shot disappears into their palm, like the stigmata of Christ. The Crusader is a redemptive figure that promises the Mandalorians can rise again through the destruction of their enemies.
The background shows starships over a Mandalorian city. Whether this was a particular city, as is the case with Guernica, or just a representation of civilization on the whole, it was destroyed by the devastation of Mandalore, and, according to the Old Mandalorians, by the cultural turn away from violence.
Using an expressionist style says interesting things about Mandalorian priorities in art. An emphasis on evocation and emotion over representation of form is in line with a culture that values abstractions such as honor and glory, and cares more about adherence to the Creed as the indicator of membership rather than species. What makes someone Mandalorian is their emotional character, not their physical form. The Crusader has no physical features save arms to enact violence, and the iconic mask that defines, for most people in the galaxy, the Mandalorian culture. They’re an image of the Idea of a perfect Mandalorian, so it’s fitting that they are portrayed in icon form.
The use of expressionism also ties into the emotional appeal of Mandalorian revanchist thought. A yearning to return to the days when they were free to pursue their conception of glory, paired with resentment toward the Jedi for their part in the devastation of Mandalore. Even though they have certainly been killed by the figure with the blaster, the Crusader has successfully slain the Jedi, and still proudly brandishes the sword by which the Mandalorians can return to their former prominence. One must live by the sword, even if it means they die by the gun.
There’s a stylistic disconnect between the central figure and the rest of the painting, one that mirrors the tension between, again, using a pastiche of Guernica to show Cool Jedi Slaying Crusader Dude. However, viewed in context with the core conflict of the mini-arc it appears in, and with Pre Viszla, who owns it, the possibility arises that this was the point.
Pre Viszla, and the culture he represents, interpret combat and violence as something through which personal glory can be attained. The suffering of others is a backdrop for aggrandizement of the self and the extended clan. The Crusader doesn’t fit in with the rest of the scene because Viszla’s idea of what returning to those ideals will accomplish doesn’t fit with reality. The Crusader isn’t real, but the suffering depicted in the rest of the painting is.
Please don’t take this too seriously. It did start as a joke. And it’s very, very possible that none of this thought was put into the initial creation of it. Then again, maybe it was. Maybe the producers took all these things into consideration. Clone Wars was an excellent series with a lot of love and care put into it.
Either way, here. The analysis of the piece of in-universe art that devoured an entire day of my time. Remember, you can write a serious analysis of literally anything, even art from Star Wars. Literally anything. Nobody can stop you. Even if they should.