Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat), by Francisco Goya
This painting, given the title ‘Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)’ is part of a series of equally dark and depressing, for good reason. The aptly named series ‘The Black Paintings’ are works painted by Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746-1828), and are dated around the years 1819 to 1823. They were painted in the artist’s later years, during a time in which Goya’s views became much more pessimistic following personal and political turmoil. The artworks, composing of around 14 pieces, portray haunting and dark themes, both stylistically and contextually.
A reflection of grief in the Witches’ Sabbath
Goya’s life was considerably bleak during this period, and the series reflect that. The artist was battling severe health issues, both physical torments and mental ones. With the combination of declining health and a country in political turmoil, it’s no wonder that Goya’s pessimism on the state of humanity was present in his artistic life. Each work is dark in every sense of the word, portraying a sense of dread through the use of a limited palette.
This series is especially interesting as the art was painted directly onto the walls of Goya’s home. They were most likely never intended for public viewing, yet paintings from this series, like that of ‘Saturn Devouring His Son,’ are some of his most recognized works.
The titles Goya may have given these paintings, if any, are unknown. We recognize them only by names given to them by art historians.
This particular work is held in the collection of Museo del Prado.
- Goya, F. (c. 1820s). Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat). Retrieved from: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-great-he-goat/09559184-cfeb-48fe-8acc-89b070b64d92
- Lubow, A. (July 27 2003). Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat). Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/27/magazine/the-secret-of-the-black-paintings.html