Witches' Sabbath, 1821–1823. 140cm x 438cm, (55 x 170 inches), Museo del Prado, Madrid
Spanish artist Francisco Goya completed “Witches’ Sabbath” in 1823. The painting shows Satan in the form of a hybrid goat-human figure surrounded by witches, who quiver before him in fear.
The work is thought to be a satire mocking the superstitious nature of Spanish culture during this era and the witch trials of the Spanish Inquisition. Spanish royalists and conservatives would use accusations of witchcraft as a way to demean the lower class.
The painting was one of Goya’s 14 Black Paintings, all of which were done in oil directly on the plaster walls of his house. Goya did not intend for the paintings to be exhibited. He never wrote or spoke of them, and it was not until nearly 50 years after his death in 1874 that they were removed from the house and transferred to canvas.
“Witches’ Sabbath” was damaged in its transfer and lost approximately 140 cm on the right, which explains its unusually tight cropping. Today this work and the 13 other Black Paintings are on permanent display at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.