Witches’ Flight by Francisco Goya
Witches’ Flight was completed in 1797-98. It is apart of a six-piece series that was commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Osuna. The piece depicts the violence of the Spanish Inquisition while critiquing the superstition and ignorance revolving around religious matters at the time. The three witches in the piece are a display of the violence surrounding the auto-da-fe, or “Auto-Faith”, in Spain at the time, which was a public ritual of whipping, torture, and burning at the stake of those condemned as unfaithful towards God and the Church. The hats, or corozas, adorned by the three witches were a symbol worn by those condemned for infamy will all presumably be burned at the stake; however Goya altered them in the painting to resemble Episcopal mitres as a reflection of the hypocrisy of the religious tribunals.
The man shielding himself with the white blanket below the witches is a picture of the willful ignorance towards the violent public rituals of auto-da-fe. Goya is also critiquing the naivety of superstition by having the man hold “figa” signs to ward of the the “evil eye”. There is another figure of a man on the ground covering his ears showing once again, the unwillingness of man to critique the Church and State of their own acts of infamy. Lastly, the donkey, which eerily resembles a goat’s skull, historically symbolizes ignoranc; but in this piece I feel it may be nullifying the man’s “figa” sign. According to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, “…dogs and donkeys, if they pass in front of men in prayer, will void or nullify that prayer.” Goya perfectly depicted ignorance, hypocrisy, and his critique of the late Inquisition in such a subtle, intelligent light with this piece creating this beautiful, romantic nightmare.