WITCHY WOMAN

Heinrick Kramer and Jacob Sprenger's the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) was the first witch hunt encyclopedia that meticulously set out ways witches could be found, identified, convicted, and executed. Their book was prefaced by Pope Innocent VIII papal bull Summis Desiderantes, which permitted "inquisitors in these regions to exercise their office and to proceed to the correction, imprisonment, and punishment of the  aforesaid person for their said offence and crime." Following its publication depictions of witches in art began to mirror ideas that were presented in the text. This exhibit will feature art from 1490-1860 in Europe. It will explore ideas from the Malleus Maleficarum such as the female body, aggressive witches, a witches powers, devils in animal form, and sabbaths. As well as show a slow downfall of the Malleus Maleficarums creditably as a source.

Early depictions did not portray witches naked; Durer began this trend to emphasize the importance of the female body in identifying a witch. Kramer and Sprenger claim women are more susceptible to the devil because they are fragile and more impressionable by nature. Women are also seen as more lustful and the devil uses women to tempt men. A woman's body becomes a tool for the devil. These ideas are why many art works depict witches in a female form. Naked women emphasize that it a women's nature to be evil.
This drawing is very different from Durer's previous work. This depicts witches that are more aggressive; one woman is holding a bucket of fire in her hand. As the Malleus Maleficarum becomes widely known, the witch becomes more of an evil figure whose goal is to harm other, and convert others to evil. The fire represents the devil, as well as the means to harm others.
This is one of the few paintings where the witch is looking at her audience, presumably a man. Her glance is seductive showing the lustful nature of women. Witches were also known to convert their children to devil worship. That is why this child does not look afraid, but is being an active member in this scene, holding the torch up.
In the top left, witches are seen riding animals, believed to be evil spirits. They are riding to a Sabbath. Kramer and Sprenger state that women can raise hailstorms and hurtful tempests. In this depiction the witches are in a cloud of menacing weather, showing their power. Witches also cause sterility in men. The captive man has no doubt been tempted and is being led to the devil.
The concept of the sabbath as a gathering of witches arose in the 1430s. Witches would fly to the sabbath on household tools, activated by magical oils or on demons that frequently assumed the form of animals. There, they would dance, engage in sexual intercourse, and pay homage to the devil through sacrifices and rituals. Kramer and Sprenger claim that it was during these ceremonies that witches would make oily substances from the bones of children, which can be seen in the bottom of this painting.
In comparison to Salvator’s previous painting and the works seen so far, this depicts a scene of a witch, that is contrary to popular opinion. Kramer and Sprenger explain there are three types of witches, those who injure but cannot cure, those who can injure and cure, and those who cure but cannot injure. Arguably, the least dangerous of the three, those who cure but cannot injure, is also the least depicted. Salvator painted this witch in comparison to the stereotypical witches portrayed at the time.
As The Malleus Maleficarum popularity declined, the perceptions of witches changed. Common ideas were still widely believed; devil taking on the form of animals, and witches using children as a sacrifice(seen in this painting). Around 1600 unbelievers began to speak out. Johann Weyer denied the existence of witches and Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan (1651) that spiritual agents were inconceivable and insignificant. These changing beliefs no doubt had an effect on Goya, whose piece is less aggressive and demonic than previous depictions.
This drawing is reminiscent of the first drawing in the exhibit, nothing in the drawing explains why these three women would be witches, other than the fact they are women. In comparison to the second drawing, the women are less aggressive, and in a more sexual position. This work comments on the importance of the female body in identifying witches.
Themes from The Malleus Maleficarum are depicted but in a satirical nature. There is a devil present in the centre, but it is a man wearing at hat with a horn and ears. The demonic creatures are comical looking flying animals with large human faces, and this is a scene full of men, not women. The Malleus Maleficarum has clearly lost all credibility at this point.
At this point in time in Europe, it is not clear if witches exist or not. Unlike for Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Spenger, who had no doubt, witches did exist. In this painting, Velazquez portrays an unclear depiction of witches. It is unclear how many women are present or what they are doing. Although the disbelief in witches is growing, they are still present in the imagination of artists.
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