Francisco Goya, Witches’ Sabbath, 1797-98

It’s an outrageous scene; a goat-devil crowned with oak leaves appears to conduct a satanic mass with witches as the audience. He gestures to a woman on his left who offers him her infant child. A crone holds up a skeletal baby as dead ones lie in the foreground, their life force having already been sucked from them. Three dead babies dangle from a stick in the middle-ground. Bats whirl around a crescent moon that hangs low in the sky.⁠⠀
Like the Goya painting we featured the other day, this painting belongs to the series of six paintings about witches and devils painted for the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, who were progressive people. The painting illustrates the worst of the stories circulating in rural Spanish communities at the time – stories that the clergy used to their advantage in gaining power over the populace. Educated viewers would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.⁠⠀

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