In 1937, Pablo Picasso channeled fierce anti-fascist and anti-militaristic sentiment into an 11.5- by 25.5-foot painting titled Guernica, rendering the horrors of war in stark geometry and shades of gray, black and white. The iconic mural has since inspired countless imitations in other mediums, including a fiber-art version and one composed entirely out of Legos.
Compared with its peers, the latest rendition of Guernica is significantly sweeter. As Vincent West and Nathan Allen report for Reuters, confectioners in Spain’s Basque Country recently created an all-chocolate version of the Cubist masterpiece in honor of the 85th anniversary of the April 1937 bombing that inspired the mural.
About 40 chocolatiers from a local association, Euskal Gozogileak (Basque Chocolatiers), collaborated to construct a life-size replica of the artwork. The team recreated Picasso’s angular figures and brushstrokes with different types of chocolate, making 14 separate slabs in order to piece the project together, per Reuters.
Picasso painted the abstract scene after learning about the devastation wrought on Guernica, a town in an autonomous northern Spanish community with a rich and distinct heritage, by German aerial bombers.
Over the course of three hours on April 26, 1937, Nazi allies of Spain’s fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, decimated the city as part of a brutal civil war. (As Alex W. Palmer wrote for Smithsonian magazine in 2018, the conflict pitted “ascendant right-wing authoritarianism and beleaguered liberal democracy” against each other in what was essentially “a dress rehearsal for the global cataclysm that was to come.”) All told, German forces killed at least 1,600 civilians—one-third of Guernica’s population, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Close allies of Franco’s Nationalist army, the Nazis targeted Guernica as a supposed center of Republican activity and morale. The town continues to play a central role in Basque culture and is home to the “tree of Gernika,” an oak that symbolizes the region’s historic freedom.
Writing for the Washington Post in 2017, Ishaan Tharoor noted that many historians today would classify the 1937 bombing as a war crime. As reports and images of the attack spread in international newspapers, he adds, the bombing of Guernica became “one of the first crimes against humanity to grip the global imagination.”
According to the Museo Reina Sofía, which houses the 1937 painting in its collections, Picasso created a work that did not specifically allude to the particulars of the Guernica bombing, instead crafting “a generic plea against the barbarity and terror of war.” In the chaotic, grief-stricken image, figures and limbs appear jumbled together; a white bull stands eerily in one corner, while a mother raises her face to the sky in a howl as she holds a lifeless child in her arms.
“There is this part of suffering, this part of peace. There is a message of hope,” Lorena Gomez, president of the chocolatier association that created the work, tells Reuters. “For us, [the image] is also very emblematic of our homeland.”
Picasso’s original Guernica traveled widely after its creation, attracting large crowds in museums across Europe and the United States. Likewise, its creators plan to take their chocolate version to multiple cities. The enormous edible artwork has already earned invitations to international chocolate expositions in Paris and Madrid, reports TeleMadrid.
In their cocoa-rich creation, the confectioners adhered closely to Picasso’s original composition. According to TeleMadrid, chefs used more than 1,100 pounds of cocoa to make the necessary chocolate from scratch, even measuring their ingredients down to the millimeter. Video footage released by EuroNews shows the confectioners tempering the chocolate, “drawing” with pipettes and employing airbrush tools to achieve the shading, shapes and durability necessary for a semi-permanent replica.
“We have had to match up different templates, colors and images and we had our work cut out for us,” Ismael Sayalero, a chocolatier involved in the project, tells Reuters. “Maybe we missed a few details, but I think it turned out pretty well.”