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גיא-טל-וורד-2-1 An Enlightened View of Witches Melancholy and Delusionary Experience in Goya`s Spell


An >Enlightened< View of Witches

Melancholy and Delusionary Experience in Goya’s Spell*

On 27 June 1798 the Duke and Duchess of Osuna purchased from Francisco Goya (probably by commission) a series Of six cabinet pictures incorporating the subject Of witchcraft to decorate their suburban villa, La Alameda, near Madrid. l By this time the controversy about the existence of witches had virtually been resolved: most inquisitors and philosophers had refuted their reality, and prosecutions of alleged witches had dramatically declined? It would therefore be reasonable to assume that Goya’s witchcraft scenes were conceived and received as pure fiction.3 Indeed, art historians have variously deemed the series »imaginary,«4 image1 11 »frivolous,«6 »entertainingly terrifying«7 and a »satire on the senses.«8 My intention in this essay is not to challenge this notion but to explore another facet in Goya’s series relating to the contemporary incredulity in witchcraft. Because the six pictures

* I would like to thank Mitchell Merback for his careful reading and useful suggestions.

I For the series and the payment records, see Pierre Gassier and Juliet Wilson, The Life and Complete Work Of Francisco Goya, New York 1971, 164, cat. nos 659—64; Juliet Wilson-Bareau and Manuela B. Mena Marqués, Goya: Truth and Fantasy, The Small Paintings, exh. cat. Madrid: Museo del Prado, London: Royal Academy of Arts, Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, New Haven/London 1994, 212.

  1. Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra, Brian P. Levack, and Roy Porter, Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eigh— teenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Philadelphia 1999, 130—34.
  2. Whether early modern images of witchcraft intended to substantiate or refute the existence of witches is an inquiry recently entertained in scholarly literature. Basically, it has propelled two antithetical answers: a visual image reinforces the veracity of witches on the premise that »seeing is believing« or, alternatively, dissuades such belief by virtue of its fanciful content. See Patricia Emison, Truth and Bizzarria in an Engraving of Lo stregozzo, in: Art Bulletin LXXXI, 1999, 623—36, esp. 631—33; Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief, Chicago/London 2002, 106—23; Linda. C. Hults, The Witch as Muse:


in Goya’s series, much like the plates in his Caprichos album of about the same time, are not united by a single story or cohesive meaning, it seems reasonable to examine each picture separately. This essay focuses on the picture often called The Spell (fig. I).

Though in the eighteenth century belief in the reality of witches was deemed utterly absurd, the existence of widespread scepticism by no means eliminated the need for restating the false nature of witchcraft through a compelling rationalization. For example, Voltaire, in the entry »goat-sorcery« in his Dictionnaire philosophique, did not merely denounce the witchcraft phenomenon as an »abominable chimera«; he also rationalized its existence by using a contemporary psycho-medical explanation that diagnosed alleged witches as insane.9 As I will show, Goya participated in the psycho-medical discourses of the Enlightenment

Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe, Phi— ladelphia 2005; Claudia Swan, Art, Science, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Holland: Jacques de Gheyn 11 (1565—1629), Cambridge 2005, 130—32, 148—51,

169—74; Charles Zika, The Appearance-of Witchcraft: Print and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Europe, London/New York 2007, 2. When considering artworks from the Age Of the Enlightenment, however, the answer to that question is obvious. For eighteenthcentury scenes of witchcraft, see Martin Myrone, ed., Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination, exh. cat. London: Tate Britain, London 2006, 123—45.

  1. Janis Tomlinson, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1746—1828,

London 1994, 102.

  1. Alfonso E. Pérez Sånchez and Eleanor A. Sayre, eds., Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, exh. cat. Madrid: Museo del Prado, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, New York: Metropolitan Musuem of Art, Boston 1989, 62.
  2. Sarah Symmons, Goya, London 1998, 161.
  3. Fred Licht, Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art, New York 1983, 177.
  4. Wilson-Bareau/Marqués (as note 1), 215.
  5. Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, Paris 1838 (1st ed.

1764), 233, s. v. »Bouc, Bestialité, Sorcellerie«: »On a

image24 1

r. Francisco Goya, The Spell, 1797—98, oil on canvas. Madrid, Museo Lazaro Galdiano


era and, like Voltaire, »diagnosed« witchcraft as a syndrome that afflicts the purported victim with the delusional behavior associated with mental disease, which is identified in Goya’s Spell as melancholy.

My path of analysis does not guarantee a single, clear-cut »solution« for The Spell. A scene of witchcraft has all the prerequisites for incomprehensibility and ambiguity. Inconsistent and fluid, the witchcraft domain involves flexible and transformable substances, deceptions, phantasmal visions and delusions — all of which obscure the clarity of the image, the confidence in sight, the chronology Of events and the mechanism and purpose of the depicted magic. For these reasons and because, as I will argue, The Spell is devoid of a fixed narrative and independent of verbal commentary, the scene resists any straightforward reading. Rather, it oscillates on the spectrum between corporeal reality and delusion. Sowing the seeds of its polarized reading, Janis Tomlinson evocatively argues that the victim’s nightshirt denotes that »he has been transported in his sleep«; yet »whether this is only a bad dream or a factual encounter with the supernatural remains unresolved.« 10 Andrew Schulz explores further the fantastic and the real in Goya’s art of that time by showing how, in the Caprichos, these two poles instigate tension between two aspects of vision — observation and fantasy. rr Corroborating Tomlinson and Schulz, my investigation elaborates this ambiguity by examining the veracity of sight in The Spell. I will propose that the witches in the scene can be reckoned as either real or a figment of imagination.

déjä dit que plus de cent mille prétendus sorciers ont été executes mort en Europe. La seule philosophie a guéri enfin les hommes de cette abominable chimére, et a enseigné aux juges qu’il ne faut pas brüler les imbéciles.«

10 Tomlinson (as note 4), 107.

1 r Andrew Schulz, Goya’s *Caprichosc.• Aesthetics, Perception, and the Body, Cambridge 2005, It —12.

12 On the social and intellectual life of the Osunas, see Sånchez/Sayre (as note 5), 38—40; Folke Nordström,

Goya, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the Art of


Those invited to La Alameda, the intended audience for Goya’s witchcraft series, would certainly have been keen on the intellectual experience of deciphering pictures with multiple levels of meaning. At La Alameda, the duchess hosted tertulias, or salons, where musical and theatrical performances took place as well as intellectual discussions on diverse topics. These were led by such prominent figures of the Spanish Enlightenment as the poet Tomas de Iriarte, the social satirist Ram6n de la Cruz, the humanist Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, the playwright and poet Leandro Fernåndez de Moratin and Goya himself. The extensive library of the duke and duchess — 6,500 volumes, including treatises on magic and witchcraft — backed up these erudite conversations. 12 Although the records of payment to the artist fail to identify the specific room in which the witchcraft pictures were intended to be housed, their literary and scholarly subject matter in all likelihood slated them for placement in the library or some other public space in the mansion.image2 7

We can readily imagine the tertulia guests engaging in lively conversation, brainstorming and debating the potential meaning of these captivating pictures. Each of the enlightened viewers, granted interpretive license, could have generated ideas based on his distinctive area of knowledge. Goya, a frequent visitor to the Alameda estate, where his patrons reserved a special house for him, must occasionally have joined these conversations and served as a reliable guide to his own creations. Perhaps he pointed out contemporaneous ideas and interpretive methods to aid in deciphering the paintings: their ambi-

Goya, Uppsala 1962, 170—71; Frank Irving Heckes, Supernatural Themes in the Art ofFrancisco de Goya,

Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan, i vols., 1985, vol. I, 125—29; and Andrew Schulz, Goya’s Portraits of the Duchess of Osuna: Fashioning Identity in Enlightenment Spain, in: Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe, ed. Melissa Hyde and Jennifer Milam, Aldershot 2003, 263—83.

  1. Heckes (as note 12), 125.

guities, paradoxes, visual codes, cultural practices and body semiotics. Although the two alternative ways of interpreting The Spell presented here were not necessarily premeditated by Goya, they would have been potentially available to its intended audience and encouraged by virtue of the ambiguities built into its semantic structure. The imagined scenario of such a rendezvous, along with the absence of a textual source and the ever thorny task of interpreting a witchcraft scene, prompts the premise that Goya’s witchcraft series presents an intellectual challenge for the ‘enlightened’ viewer and encourages a multiplicity of readings.

Decoding Body Language

The Spell offers a haunting spectacle. In a desolate place, under a murky sky populated with flapping owls and bats, five gruesome witches cast a spell on a cowering victim. Four of the witches, dressed in black and holding magic appurtenances, are assembled in a semicircle, while an anthropomorphic assistant descends on them, head first, from above. This horrific supernatural attack climaxes in the foreground with a fifth witch, clad in yellow, approaching menacingly and stretching out her hands toward the terrified figure cowering before her. He — or she, for gender is indeterminable — sports a nightshirt, and his apprehension is evidenced by the head tilted sideways, the staring eyes and the tightly intert-

  1. Gassier/Wilson (as note 1), cat. nos 663—64; Nordström (as note 12), 154—58.

image3 5Goya was in close contact with Moratin especially in 1796—97. Edith F. Helman, Trasmundo de Goya, Madrid 1963, 186—99; eadem, The Younger Moratin and Goya: On Duendes and Brujas, in: Hispanic Review XXVII, 1959, 111′, and eadem, Algunos Suefios y brujas de Goya, in: Goya: Nuevas Visiones: Homenaje a Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, Madrid 1987, 196—205.

  1. Heckes (as note 12), 155—59; and idem, Goya y sus seis »Asuntos de Brujas«, in: Goya ccxcv-ccxcvl, 2003, 197—214.
  2. M. M. de las Heras’s entry in Sånchez/Sayre (as note 5), 58.
  3. image4 4image5 6Helman’s theory was disputed by René Andioc,

wined fingers. With his bright attire, dramatic illumination by an Oil lamp, proximity to the picture plane, direct facing towards the viewer and telling body language, it is this figure that commands our attention.

The Spell, like the entire series, has been subjected to an iconographic analysis that hinges on textual references and yields clear-cut meanings. Two pictures in the series, The Devil’s Lamp and Don Juan and the Statue of the Commandant, illustrate episodes from two early eighteenthcentury plays by Antonio de Zamora. ‘4 For the rest, Edith Helman has proposed the accounts of confessions in the 1610 auto-da-fé in Logrofio as key sources. These records, she argues, would have been accessible to Goya through his friend, the aforementioned playwright Moratfn, who had annotated the Logrofio inquisitorial trial record from 1797 until its publication in 1812. 1 5 Frank Heckes has read The Spell through a particular confession recorded in the Logrofio accounts: A certain Graciana de Barrenechea, identified by Heckes as the yellow-clad witch, is taking revenge upon her rival witch, Marijuan de Odia, the kneeling victim. Assisted by the Devil (the figure descending from the sky) and other witches, Graciana awakens Marijuan at night — hence the nightshirt — and poisons her. 16 This literary approach has been endorsed by another scholar, who has asserted that in Goya’s witchcraft series »literary sources weigh more image6 4than the intellectual debate on the subject.« 17 But

Moratin, inspirateur de Goya?, in: Goya, regards et lectures, Aix en Provence 1982, 25—32.

  1. Karen Newman, Fashioning Femininity and English Renaissance Drama, Chicago 1991, 66.
  2. Nordström (as note 12), 166; and WilsonBareau/Marqués (as note r), 215.
  3. Leon Battista Alberti, in El tratado de la pintura por Leonardo de Vinci, y los tres libros que sobre el mismo arte escribio Leon Bautista Alberti, trans. Diego Antonio Rejon de Silva, Madrid 1784, 238. As pointed out by Schulz (as note It), 24—25. At the same time, eighteenth-century theater manuals recommended that actors learn body rhetoric from painting and sculpture: Dene Barnett, The Art of Gesture: The Practices and Principles of 18th Century Acting, Heidelberg 1987, 122—26.

it would be worth considering whether the opposite might be the case. To begin with, Goya’s explicit reliance on theatrical episodes in two pictures from the series does not necessarily imply that the entire series rested upon specific texts; it may indicate rather that only these two scenes rely on a fixed, identifiable narrative, while the other scenes entail different ways of being read. As for reading the series through the Logrofio trial record, this proposal falls short on grounds of accessibility: Most viewers would not have been familiar with either the accounts of a long-forgotten trial or Moratfn’s annotation, which would have been published only in 1812. If the Logroöo confessions did play a role in Goya’s conception of the scene, they were at best only a point of departure. tg

As an alternative I would like to propose that we construe The Spell as a generic scene, unrestricted by any particular text or event, and that we privilege semiotics over iconography as a working methodology. Literary scholar Karen Newman defines the practice of witchcraft as »a semiotic activity that depends on acts Of reading, systems of differences«; accordingly, our understanding of witches is »a process of labeling, Of reading and interpreting signs.« 19 Still, the task of sign decoding is not an easy one, for an image of witchcraft refers to a set of practices with which no one is familiar, a set of codes without a stabile set of referents. Hoping to grasp the mechanism of magical procedure in Goya’s Spell, the beholder would perhaps first scrutinize the witches in order to decipher their activities. Sooner or later, however, he or she would realize that magic’s

  1. His familiarity with sign language is evidenced by his drawing of a struggling couple entitled with the gesture of victory (Gassier/W11son [as note 1], cat. no. 1446) and, even more patently, by his systematic copy of gestures signifying the alphabet from two instructional books, one written by the sixteenth-century monk Pedro Ponce de Leon and the other by Goya’s contemporary Lorenzo Hervås y Panduro. See Barbara Kornmeier, »Ydioma image8 3 Taubstummenalphabet im Kontext seines Geniekonzepts, in: Zeitschrift fhiir Kunstgeschichte LXI, 1998, 1—17. Sign language ad an acute weight on his life, as hisimage7 2


aims and processes (its appurtenances, activities, language and gestures) are all impenetrable and indecipherable. What can be deciphered, however, is the response of the victim. Here, body language holds the key to understanding the scene.

Since Goya’s series was viewed in conjunction with the plays performed in the tertulia, the theatrical subject matter in two pictures of the series and the performative mode of representation in the Other scenes seem appropriate. In The Spell, theatricality is evident in the narrow stage, the frontal stance of the actors, the flat, »painted« backdrop and the artificial illumination of an oil lamp that spotlights the confrontation between adversary and victim.20 Another theatrical constituent is the body rhetoric. Goya’s recognition of hand gestures as a useful means of visual communication in art abides by the advice of his predecessors. Both Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, whose writings were available in Spanish by the end of the eighteenth century, recommended that artists study the gestures of orators, mutes and monks bound to silence as a means of animating their figures with gestures that would articulate their inner emotion.2t Goya’s interest in gestures, however, went beyond his recognition of their effectiveness in art. He was Obliged to use them in his daily life as well, since a severe illness in 1792 had left him deaf. This misfortune arguably made his concern with gestural language more telling.22

The wide range of gestures through which Goya transmitted expressive ideas includes gestures that are recast to convey several things.23 While this polysemy may be a critical downside

letter from 22 March 1798 to King Carlos IV testifies: »For the last six years I have been greatly indisposed, especially having lost my hearing to the extent that I am unable to understand anything without the use of sign language.« A few days later, on 27 March, Goya movingly writes to his friend, Martin Zapater, that he appreciated the efforts of Jovellanos, who »learned to speak with his hands, and stopped eating to talk with me.« Sarah Symmons, Goya: A Life in Letters, London 2004, 252—53•

  1. On the role of gestures in Goya oeuvre, see Martin Warnke, Goyas Gesten, in: Goya *Alle werdenfallen€,

in the sphere of non-verbal communication, in the visual arts it provides a challenge to the cultivated beholder to determine the pertinent meaning of a gesture in accord with the depicted event. Consider the victim’s intertwined fingers in The Spell. With this same gesture a man image9 1mourns the deceased in plate 9 of the Caprichos, a Spaniard pleads for mercy or perhaps admits his defeat in The Third of May 1808, the Virgin accepts her fate in The Annunciation and Saint Peter fervently repents in one of Goya’s last paintings. 24 While the meaning of intertwined fingers in each of these examples is relatively clear, decoding its role in The Spell is a more complex task. The victim’s threatening situation may encourage associating this gesture with its traditional meaning of praying. Alternatively, Roberto Alcalå Flecha, relying on gestural instructions of eighteenth-century theater manuals, reads this gesture in The Spell as an expression of desolation and anguish. According to Flecha, the victim’s gesture complements the physiognomy of fear and despair evident in the wrinkled brow, the halfopen mouth with down-turned corners and the wide-open eyes.25 Given the terrifying situation, contemporary spectators would surely straightforwardly have read horror in his body language.

Nevertheless, the intertwined fingers might equally have struck spectators as a sign of a quite different mental condition: melancholy. Folke Nordström, in his Goya, Saturn and Melancholy,

ed. Werner Hofmann, Edith Helman, and Martin Warnke, Frankfurt am Main 1987, 115—77; Eleanor A. Sayre, Goyas Gebärdensprache, in: Margaret Stuffmann, ed., Goya: Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik, exh. cat. Frankfurt am Main: Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main 1981, 82—87′, Antonio Gascön Ricao, Las cifras de la mano de Francisco de Goya, in: Boletino del Museo e Instituto Camon Aznar LXXXII, 2000, 273—84; and Roberto Alcalå Flecha, Expresion y gesto en la obra de Goya, in: Goya CCLII, 1996, 341—52. On Goya’s polysemous gestures, see Reva Wolf, Goya and the Satirical Print in England and on the Continent, 1730 to 1850, Boston 1991, 69; Werner Hofmann, Unending Shipwreck, in: Wilson-Bareau/Marqués (as note 1), 54.

  1. Gassier/Wilson (as note 1), cat. nos 235 (The Annunciation), and 1641 (The Repentant Saint Peter).

has already associated the witchcraft series with melancholy.Z6 But while his association is based on the pictures’ gloomy atmosphere, I would argue that in The Spell, melancholy plays a far more compelling role. Melancholy, a mental and physical state that differs considerably from simple sadness, affords the scene novel meanings because it is deeply entrenched in early modern witchcraft discourse. Before delving into these issues, I would like first to establish the victim’s gesture as one signifying melancholy.

Modern scholarship, primarily the seminal Saturn and Melancholy by Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, has underscored the time-honoured pose of the head resting on the hand as the gesture most often identified with melancholy in early modern Europe.27 Intertwined fingers, though a less-studied gesture by comparison, was by the end of the eighteenth century well established as a code for melancholy in theater manuals, instructional treatises of sign language and works of art throughout Europe. The German philosopher and theater director Johann Jakob Engel, in his manual of gestures for actors, Ideen zu einer Mimik (Ideas on gesture, Berlin 1785—86), underpins the versatility of the intertwined-fingers gesture: »TO insert the fingers between each other, the hands being upon the lap« (the very pose of the protagonist in The Spell) is »the expression of those who plead, submit, and resign themselves up with supplication

  1. Flecha (as note 23), 344—46.
  2. Nordström (as note 12), IS3—71.
  3. Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, Satum and Melancholy: Studies in the History ofNatutal Philosophy, Religion, and Art, New York 1964.
  4. Quoted from the adaptation of Engel’s instructions to English drama by Henry Siddon, Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Action, London 1822, 180. On the importance of Engel, see Adam Kendon, Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance, Cambridge 2004, 86—87.
  5. Despite the absence of reprints of Bulwer’s tract after 1648 and the loss of many copies in the Great Fire of London in 1666, evidence suggests that the book was still influential in the eighteenth century. The title and concept of Gilbert Adison’s Chironomia of 1806 (which includes the intertwined fingers) is considerably inspired by Bulwer’s treatise. See John Bulwer,

        FÜR         /

into the power of another,« but also »the sluggish expression of those who have fallen into a melancholy muse.«28 Engel repeats the definition of the seventeenth-century English writer John Bulwer, the first to deal exclusively with hand gestures. His Chirologia: or the Natural Language of the Hand and Chironomia: or the Art of Manual Rhetoric, published in 1644, was an influential treatise throughout the Continent well into the eighteenth century.29 Each gesture is explained in a commentary that outlines its meaning and demonstrates its applications by citing from past literature, and each is illustrated by the novel device of a chirogrammatic plate, a feature that surely captivated artists. In the entry »Tristitia animi signo,« or »I show mental anguish,« Bulwer defines the intertwined-fingers gesture as »the sluggish expression [of those] who are fallen into a melancholy muse« (fig. 2).30

Bulwer and Engel had by no means invented the coding of this gesture as melancholy. In a late sixteenth-century series entitled The Four Temperaments, designed by the Flemish artist Maarten de Vos and engraved by Raphael Sadeler, the Melancholic tableau features a naked woman rolling her eyes aloft and intertwining the fingers of her raised arms (fig. 3). Her gesture signifies the multifaceted condition of Melancholy, which inflicts the wide range of symptoms listed in the text appended below the image: violence, anxiety, fatigue, and so on. This print is exceptional among representations of melancholy, and yet it attests to the standardization of the intertwined fingers as a visual signifier of melancholy. Goya may neither have known of Sadeler’s print nor read the treatises of Bulwer or Engel. Yet these pieces of evidence establish that the recognition of

Chirologia: Or the Natural Language of the Hand and Chironomia.• or the Art of Manual Rhetoric (London 1644), ed. James W. Cleary, Carbondale and Edwardsville 1974, xxxi—xxxiv. In 1727 the Czech engineer Jacob Lcupold copied Bulwer’s chirogramatic plates: Barbara Maria Stafford, Artful Science: Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education, Cambridge 1994, 197—206.

30 Bulwer/Cleary (as note 29), 39, gesture X (italics are original), plate K in p. In the book of theatrical


image15 1

  1. »Tristitia animi signo« (l show mental anguish),

John Bulwer, Chirologia: or the Natural Language of the Hand and Chironomia:

or the Art ofManual Rhetoric, 1644

image14 2

  1. Raphael Sadder l, after Maarten de Vos, Melancholic, engraving, 1 580s. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Mary B. Regan (31.21.154)

body rhetoric by Fermin Eduardo Zeglirscosac, Ensayo sobre el origen y naturaleza de las pasiones, del gesto y de la accion teatral, published in Madrid in 1800, the author dedicates a chapter to suffering and melancholy, where it is described with the gesture of bound fingers (»los dedos enlazados,« 95). The accompanied illustration (plate 6, fig. 1), however, shows a different gesture from the intertwined fingers.

the gesture as a signifier of melancholy Was something close to common knowledge in his time.

Cause and Effect: Witches Generating Melancholy or Vice Versa?

The first interpretive possibility I am proposing maintains the standard reading of Goya’s Spell as an attack of witches on a hapless victim. In this reading, melancholy is a disease inflicted on the victim by the witches’ maleficia. Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) refers to such supernatural power in the section »Of Witches and Magicians, how they cause Melancholy.« The practitioners of magic collaboratively inflict melancholy by applying an array of methods: »The means by which they work are usually charms, images .1 constellations, knots, amulets, words, philters, etc., which generally make the parties affected [by] melancholy.«31 In The Spell, the magic operation, too, entails various types of apparatus and routine: the witch on the left signals with one hand and holds an oil lamp in the other; the hag next to her sticks pins into a manikin; the third sorceress recites incantations from a book of magic that she reads by the light of a candle; and a fiendish figure on the far right crams sacrificed infants into a basket.

I want to question this earlier description of The Spell as >witches cast a spell on their cowering victimc by way of an alternative interpretation. I am proposing that despite their corporeal

  1. Robert Burton, The Anatomy ofMelancholy (London 1613), ed. Holbrook Jackson, New York 2001, 205 (
  2. Stanley W. Jackson, Melancholia and Depression: From Hippocratic Times to Modern Times, New Haven/London 1986, 128—130. On melancholy, see also Klibansky/Panofsky/Saxl (as note 27); Juliana Schiesari, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature, Ithaca (N.Y.) 1992; and Stuart Clark, Vanities ofthe Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture, Oxford 2007, 50—67.
  3. Jackson (as note 32), 124. The fear and desolation in the victim’s face are, according to contemporary physicians, the two major traits of melancholy. Ibid., 130.
  4. Allan Ingram, Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century: A Reader, Liverpool 1998, 43.

3 S Sydney Anglo, Melancholia and Witchcraft: The

image10 4appearance, the witches are a projection of the cowering man’s imagination. This understanding necessitates reversing the intuitive reading of the scene’s chronological sequence. The narrative constructed by the beholder is now activated not by the witches, who cast a spell on the cowering figure or afflict him with melancholy, but by the cowering figure’s delusional melancholic mind, signaled by his gesture, which generates an apparition of witches.

By the end of the eighteenth century, melancholy was a complex physiological state encompassing multiple symptoms, and it could designate forms of malaise with severe symptoms.32 Since the pictorial vocabulary Of melancholy does not distinguish between the different types of symptoms, it becomes the beholder’s task to determine the symptom best matching the scene’s context. It is my contention then that the melancholic symptom most suited to the scene in The Spell is a delusionary mind. In eighteenthcentury medical discourse delusion was underlined as the prime symptom of the disease of melancholy. For example, Richard Mead, an eminent English medical authority celebrated abro-

ad, wrote in Medical Precepts and Cautions (1751) that for one to suffer from melancholia was »to be sad and dejected, to be daily terrified with vain imaginations; to fancy hobgoblins haunting him.«33 Richard Baxter strengthened the connection between melancholy and imagi-

Debate between Wier, Bodin, and Scot, in: Folie et déraison la Renaissance, ed. Alois Gerlo, Brussels 1976, 209—22; H. C. Erik Midelfort, A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany, Stanford 1999, 182—227; Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, Oxford 1997, 199.

36 On the denial of witchcraft in eighteenth-century Spain, see Julio Caro Baroja, The World of the Witches, trans. Nigel Glendinning, Chicago 1964, reprint, London 2001, 209—1 S; Hofstra/Levack/Porter (as note 2), 226—3 S; Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, Whose Enlightenment?: Medicine, Witchcraft, Melancholia and Pathology, in: Medicine in the Enlightenment, ed. Roy Porter, Amsterdam 1994, 113—27; and Maria Tausiet, From Illusion to Disenchantment: Feijoo versus the »Falsely Possessed« in Eighteenth-Century Spain, in: Beyond the Witch Trials: Witchcraft and


nation in The Signs and Causes of Melancholy (published postmortem in 1716): »l do not call those melancholy who are rationally sorrowful for sin, and sensible of their misery as long image11 2 as they have sound reason, and the imagination, fantasy, or thinking faculty is not crazed or diseased; but by melancholy I mean this diseased craziness, hurt, or error of the imagination.«34

Goya repudiated the reality of witches by suggesting a psycho-medical explanation that was already entrenched in the discourse on witchcraft and imagination: anyone who sees witches or believes that he or she is a witch suffers from the mental disorder of melancholy which distorts the senses and alters the minds. This reasoning was promulgated by sceptics and by the defenders of witches in the prevalent debate about the witchcraft phenomenon. Two main theories that evolved in the sixteenth century rationalized the witches’ supernatural powers as mere delusions that afflicted their diseased minds. The supernatural explanation held by the Dutch physician Johann Weyer (1515—88) claimed that the melancholic illness, which predominantly afflicted women, so weakened them that the devil consequently entered their minds and led them into delusion. The natural explanation of the English author Reginald Scott (c. 1538—99) deviated from Weyer’s theory by eliminating the devil from the process.” Unsurprisingly, eighteenth-century physicians and philosophers advocated the latter’s explanation and buttressed it with contemporary psychological notions and medical theories.36

Goya’s horror story turns out to be a subject of enlightened medical reasoning. At least two frequent participants in the Alameda tertulia could have informed Goya and the other guests

Magic in Enlightenment Europe, ed. Owen Davies and Willem de Blécourt, Manchester 2004, 45—60.

  1. Baroja (as note 36), 182. Moratin was familiar with Valencia’s writings: Sänchez/Sayre (as note 5), 62.
  2. Baroja (as note 36), 184—89.
  3. Quoted in Ibid., 214. On the relationship of Goya and Jovellanos, see Helman, Trasmundo (as note 15), chap. y, Helman, Jovellanos y Goya, Madrid 1970; Sånchez/Sayre (as note 5), 69—71.


of this explanation. The first, Moratin, was aware of the sceptical responses to the Logrofio trials. In a critical analysis of the trial accounts, the humanist Pedro de Valencia argued that witchcraft could be real but could also stem from visions caused by melancholy or sickness Of the mind and inflicted by the devil.37 The inquisitor Alonso de Salazar Frias, one of the judges who presided over the Logrofio trials but objected to the proceedings of the other judges (he was later commissioned by the Supreme Tribunal of the Inquisition to further investigate witchcraft), concluded that the majority of the acts of the purported witches were utterly imaginary.38 The second potentially informative guest was the sceptical Jovellanos, whose portrait Goya painted at about the same time as he worked the witchcraft series, in 1798. In a comment dated August 1798, Jovellanos praised a certain eighteenth-century satirical work for its »excellent ideas for banishing pointless belief in witches, spells, spirits, diviners, etc.«39 His library — as well as that of the Osunas — included the infamous Malleus maleficarum (Hammer of the witches, 1486), which states that »many imaginary appearances happen in many people [suffering] from a disease caused by an excess of black bile [ex morboimage12 1

Goya’s visual amalgamation of the melancholic’s intertwined fingers and his dysfunctional imagination is not unique, as three images comparable to The Spell can show. The first is a British satirical print by George Murgatroyd Woodward, John Bull Troubled with the Blue Devils (fig. 4). This print complements Reva Wolf’s study on Goya’s influence from contemporary British satirical prints, notably in the visual vocabulary of body rhetoric.41 Woodwar-

  1. Heinrich Kramer and Jacobus Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, trans. P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Manchester 2007, 186 (11.2.1). Jovellanos bought a copy of the Malleus in 1795: Helman, The Younger Moratin (as note 15), 121, n. 20. On the Osuna’s copy of the Mallegs, see Heckes (as note 12), 128.
  2. For other prints by Woodward, see Wolf (as note 23), 41—43, 74—78, 86—87.


4. George Murgatroyd Woodward, John Bull Troubled with the Blue Devils, 1799, engraving. London, British Museum

d’s print is dated 1799, a year after Goya finished the witchcraft series; yet it is instructive as an example of the pictorial semiotics of delusion employed in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The eponymous figure, the stereotypical British man, is ‘troubled with the blue devils€, a synonym for melancholy, and consequently ima-

  1. Fiona Haslam, From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medi— cine in Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Liverpool image13 11996, 166, recognizes John Bull’s melancholic condition but ignores his hand gesture. In another print by Woodward, The Monkish Vision of 1797 (illustrated in Terry Castle, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny, New York/Oxford 1995, 176), the piousness of a contented, plump monk, sitting with sprawled legs, begets a reverie of his base desires. An ethereal apparition of forbidden wine and alluring women emerges behind his back. While his intertwined-fingers gesture in all likelihood signals meditative praying rather than melancholy, the combination

gines devilish creatures that represent a variety of taxes to which he is subject. His intertwined fingers signify melancholy, the cause of his hallucmat10ns.42

The second related image is an engraved copy of a design by the Netherlandish artist Jacques de Gheyn Il, The Preparation for the Witches’ Sabbath, c. 1610 (fig. 5). Despite its early date the print is significant, for the delusionary melancholic already features here in a scene of witchcraft. Goya might even have been familiar with de Gheyn’s print, just as he knew and drew on engravings of David Teniers the Younger’s witchcraft paintings.43 Claudia Swan, contextualizing this image with contemporary texts on demonology and theories about the delusions of melancholic witches, deduces that although de Gheyn’s witches could have been gauged as fantastical, devoid of an accompanying text the image remains »entirely open to a variety of readings.«44 A hitherto overlooked feature corroborates her inclination that the scene is fiction. The engraving focuses on a trio of witches who dexterously perform magic. Noticeably, one of them differs from her colleagues (fig. 6). While the seated witch concocts a magic potion in a bowl and the bent over witch in the middle performs magic with a wand in her hand and a book at her feet, the witch on the left observes them passivelye That she is respectably clothed further sets her apart from her naked colleagues. In fact, her small step forward suggests that she has just arrived, perhaps from the distant village. By looking at her and pointing back at the village, the second

of that gesture and a visible manifestation of delirium might have stirred Goya to pursue this connection.

  1. Jane P. Davidson, The Witch in Northern European Art, 1470—1750, Freren 1987, 93—94. For eighteenthcentury engravings of Teniers’s witchcraft scenes, see Margret Klinge and Dietrnar Lüdke, David Teniers der Jüngere 1610—1690: Alltag und Vergnügen in Flandern, Heidelberg 2005, 342—43.
  2. Swan (as note 3), 157—94 (quotation from 174).
  3. In other graphic works de Gheyn depicted witches posing with the melancholic cheek-on-hand stance: Hults (as note 3), 157, 162, 167. De Gheyn was most likely familiar with Martin de Vos’s engravings (Swan

        FijR         /


S. Andries Stock (?), after Jacques de Gheyn Il, The Preparation for the Witches’ Sabbath,

c. 1610, engraving, two plates. London, British Museum

witch seems to be referencing the origins of this third witch. The latter’s body rhetoric provides a reason for her alienation: her intertwined fingers denote that she is afflicted by the disease of melancholy. Her joining a witches’ sect in a fanciful setting seems, therefore, to occur only in her hallucinations.4$

The third image comparable to The Spell is a work by Goya himself, designed around the same time he was occupied with the witchcraft series. It has already been acknowledged that some constituent parts of the Caprichos aquatint etchings are encountered in the witchcraft series, and their reception overlapped as well. On 17 January 1799, a few months after purchasing the witchcraft series, the Duchess bought four sets of

[as note 3], 185—88) and might have derived the intertwined-fingers gesture directly from de Vos’s Melancholic (see fig. 3). On sorceresses in the melan-


image18 1

  1. Detail of fig. 5.

cholic cheek-on-hand posture, see Guy Tal, Disbelieving in Witchcraft: Allori’s Melancholic Circe in the Palazzo Salviati, in: Athanor XXII, 2004, 57—66.

image23 1

  1. Francisco Goya, The Sleep (or Dream) ofReason Produces Monsters (Capricho 43), 1799, etching and aquatint. London, British Museum

the Caprichos.46 Thus the analogies between the two series were likely inevitable for the Osunas and their visitors in La Alameda (also nicknamed, intriguingly, El Capricho). In particular The Spell, besides some motifs readily traced to the Caprichos plates,47 is conceptually linked to the famous forty-third plate, entitled The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueio de la razon produce monstruos) (fig. 7). As the opening plate Of the series’ second section (plates 43—80),

  1. Gassier/Wilson (as note 1), 384.
  2. The Spell consists of several features seen in the Caprichos plates: the basket of sacrificed infants possessed by the witches in plate 45; the aerial upsidedown figure in plates 56 and 65; witches with intertwined fingers in plates 46, 47, and 63; a witch reading a book by light of a candle in Suefio 6, a drawing that


8. Francisco Goya, first version for the frontispiece of the Suefios series, 1797, drawing.

Madrid, Museo del Prado

it announces that the succeeding scenes, those dedicated to subjects of witchcraft and superstition, are visualizations of the artist’s dreams. The Spell condenses the dreamer and the dreamed witches into one scene.

But it is to the preparatory drawing for Goya’s Sleep of Reason, designed in 1797 and originally cast as the first plate of the Sueios (Dreams) series (fig. 8), that The Spell is more intimately connected. With fingers intertwined, the slumbe-

was not refined into a Capricio etching (Gassier/Wilson [as note 1], cat. no. 625). See also WilsonBareau/Marqués (as note 1), 213—14. Interestingly, the witchcraft series might have been referred as *seis caprichos raros«, six strange caprices, in their exhibition at the Academy of San Fernando in 1799: Gassier/Wilson (as note 1), 164.


rmg protagonist, long recognized as Goya himself,48 dreams. Miscellaneous images are projected into the open space around his head — grotesque faces, two self-portraits, two donkeys and a dog. The ray-like strokes emanating from his head create an expressive screen for the imaginative content. Though such a screen is absent from The Spell (a significant omission to be discussed later), the two scenes are nevertheless comparable on several levels. The spatial relation between the cowering victim and the group of witches is similar to that between the sleeping artist and the stream of fantasy. Both protagonists are bent over in despair, with intertwined fingers. They occupy the foreground, their backs turned to the grotesque delirium of the picture’s middle ground, while wheeling nocturnal fowl create a daunting backdrop. True, the anticipated audience of the witchcraft series, unacquainted with this preparatory drawing, would not have been able to make this comparison. But the compositional analogies speak clearly to the possibility that Goya initially conceived The Spell as a dreamlike tableau in which the witches are a figment of the melancholic’s imagination.”

Vision and Delusion

In addition to the protagonist’s melancholy gesture, the potential reading of The Spell as a double-levelled reality is evoked by its association with the imagery of visionary experience. The victim’s stance, in particular, employs conventions from the repository of visionary imagery associated with saints.S0 Compare him, for instance, to the apostle at the lower right of El

  1. Sånchez/Sayre (as note 5), 119—23.
  2. Is it possible that Goya, consciously or not, recognized himself in the witches’ victim? In his letter of 1792 to his friend Martin Zapater, Goya grumbles about his fears of ghosts and witches summoned by his bad humor and admits that only the cure his aunt Lorenza taught him, to >put my hand below my navels had ceased his irrational thoughts altogether (quoted in Victor I. Stoichita and Anna Maria Coderch, Goya: The Last Carnival, London 1999, 182—83). This assumption recalls the observation in



9. El Greco, The Assumption Ofthe Virgin, 1577, oil on canvas. Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague, 190699,

The Art Institute of Chicago

André Malraux, Saturn: An Essay on Goya, London 1957, 123, that Goya »does not so much pity the victims as feel that he is one of them.« On some preparatory drawings of the Caprichos Goya inscribed »suefio de brujas,«. ambiguously referring to either the witches’ dream or the artist’s dream of witches. From this view The Spell becomes a self-reflexive painting, conversing on the artistic process of painting witches out of imagination.

  1. Victor l. Stoichita, Visionary Experience in the GOIden Age ofSpanish Art, London 1995, esp. 162—97.

Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin, the central panel in the retablo of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, Toledo (fig. 9): expressing awe and astonishment, they both kneel facing the beholder, tilt their heads, and gaze back at a supernatural marvel. The intertwined-fingers gesture (not assumed by El Greco’s saint) is a devotional sign common in visionary pictures. Its connotation in The Spell with religious rituals is reinforced by the perversion of two other Christian gestures: the bending hag’s outstretched arms in the guise of blessing or healing and the ‘benediction« of the witch on the left.

Goya transformed theophany into demonic illusion in other works of that time, notably in his Caprichos. In plate 52, What a tailor can do! (iLo que puede un sastre!) (fig. 10), Goya parodied the familiar composition of visionary piccures, applied, for instance, in his Appearance of the Virgin of the Pillar to Saint James the Great.’ I A woman with clasped hands assumes a worshipful pose in front of a scarecrow made from a monk’s habit and a truncated tree. Although she is looking at the arboreal monk with open eyes, her pose indicates that her sight is defective. The commentary on the plate in the Prado manuscript clarifies the situation: »How often a ridiculous creature is transformed suddenly into a ghost that is nothing and looks like a lot. That is what the skill of a tailor can do and the stupidity of those who judge things by their appearances.«S2 The devotee and the vision of the arboreal monk in the Capricho plate parallel the hallucinating victim and the witches in The Spell. Here,

  1. For the picture, see Wilson-Bareau/Marqués (as note
  2. Schulz (as note 11), 134; and Stoichita/Coderch (as note 49), 88.
  3. Clark (as note 32), 54, 59—60. On the concept of blindness in the Caprichos, see Schulz (as note 11), 130—40. In The Sleep of Reason and The Spell, as well as in Woodward’s Monkish Vision (see note 42), the imaginative content is situated behind the back of the dreamer’s head. This configuration endures a theory explained by the Oxford philosopher Robert Fludd in his Utriwsque Cosmi historia (The history of this world and the Other) of 1617—19. He marks the

10. Francisco Goya, What a tailor can do!

(Capricho 52), 1799, etching and aquatint.

London, British Museum

too, the victim has a damaged faculty of perception, evident in his oblique gaze, which is suspended between the real world of the viewer before him and the domain of fantasy behind him. His

faculty of imagination in the forehead, the spot of its alleged location, by the *Oculus Imaginationis€. This inner eye of the imagination engenders diverse images and radiates them to the space beyond the back of the head. See Marina Warner, The Structure of the Imagi- image17 2nation, in: Structure: In Science and Art, ed. Wendy Pullan and Harshad Bhadeshia, Cambridge 2000, 165—70.

54 This perversion of Christianity is apparent in two other paintings of Goya’s series. In the Flying Witches, the tall conical caps called corozas or mitras identify the witches as Inquisitorial defendants, but in their cleaved shape they are comparable to the bis-

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perverted sight echoes the assertion on apparitions of an eighteenth-century French writer, that melancholics have »eyes without sight image19 they see everything except what is in front of them.«$3

Unlike What a tailor can do!, however, the perversion of visionary experience in The Spell not only parodies religious seeing but also underpins the understanding of witchcraft as a heresy built on perverse, inverted versions of Catholic rituals.S4 From this perspective emerges another pathological category of the victim’s condition called »religious melancholy«. Developed in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and perpetuated with some modifications throughout the eighteenth century, »religious melancholy« was a mental derangement that engendered unusual religious preoccupations or »superstitions« — the term for deviant religious views of false prophecy and illusions.” The protagonist in The Spell is a religious melancholic in a twofold sense: his credulous belief in witchcraft and his false illusions.

Blurred Boundaries

Despite the cues of a double-levelled reality in The Spell — the melancholic gesture, the conflation with visionary imagery and the nightshirt — the spatial division between the corporeal and the fantastic remains incoherent, for there is no clear demarcation between the two realms. Woodward, for instance, enclosed the devils imagined by John Bull within a cloud, a conventional way of differentiating dreams, visions and other indi-

hop’s mitra, a clear debasement of the church authorities. The entire spectacle was compared to the Resurrection of Christ; Robert Hughes, Goya, New York 2003, r SS. According to Heckes, >Goya« (as note 16), 200, the central composition of the Witches’ Sabbath resembles Rembrandt’s Christ Healing the Sick (»The Hundred Gilder Print«). The goateed Devil, an inversion of the curing Christ, receives offerings of emaciated and dead infants from the witches.

image21 1Jackson (as note 29), 330—39.

56 Sixten Ringbom, Some Pictorial Conventions for the

Recounting of Thoughts and Experience in Late Medieval Art, in: Medieval Iconography and Narrati-


rect representations from the reality occupied by the visionary individual.s6 The omission of any means of differentiation in The Spell, by contrast, brings the invisible witches fully into a visible reality. Their human appearance and proportions (so distinct from Woodward’s fantastic imps), and their solid stance on the ground behind their victim, reinforce their physical presence in the space. Fred Licht noticed this deficiency in Goya’s Colossus (c. 1812—16; Prado) and concluded, »Goya himself seems to be helpless in the face of his visions, for he cannot convey them to us intelligibly or by means of conventional compositional schemes.«S7

To claim that Goya was incapable of merging fact and fiction coherently in one picture is inherently misguiding. Goya, in fact, was fully able to separate the imaginary from the real. We have already seen how, in the first version of The Sleep of Reason (fig. 8), he adeptly drew rays emanating from the sleeper’s head, on which he projected the imaginary content. In his Appearance of the Virgin Of the Pillar to Saint James the Great he utilized the long-established pictorial convention of the cloud to differentiate heavenly phenomena and physical reality. And in The Devil’s Lamp (fig. 11) Goya, conceivably inspired by the novel technique of phantasmagoria, highlighted the illusionary nature of the horses by painting them as blurred and glowing on a dark background.sg Despite his acquaintance with a variety of methods to convey visions, Goya refrained from employing one in The Spell.

ve: A Symposium, ed. Flemming G. Andersen, Esther Nyholm, Marianne Powell, and Flemming Talbo Stubkjaer, Odense 1980, 69; and idem, Action and Report: The Problem of Indirect Narration in the Academic Theory of Painting, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes LII, 1989, 34—5 r.

  1. Licht (as note 7), 188.
  2. C. Ferment, Goya et la fantasmagorie, in: Gazette des Beaux-Arts LIX, 1957, 223—26; Priscilla E. Muller, Goya’s •Black’ Paintings: Truth and Reason in Light and Liberty, New York 1984, 205—38;. and Wendy Bird, Oh Monstrous Lamp!, in: Apollo CLIX, 2004, 13—19. See also Castle (as note 42), 140—189.

His method is reminiscent of the »chiaroscuro phantasm« Barbara Stafford has detected in the Caprichos: alterations of disorderly bursts of light and shadow that convey »the erratic and short gaps existing between waking and dreaming, reason and unreason« and the liberation Of the mind from a cohesive train of thought.” In The Spell, the light-dark alterations created by the two sources of illumination materialize the fragmentary and fractured mind of the deluded victim. The yellow-clad witch is unified with him by one source of light (their bright clothes accentuate their union), which separates the two from the other witches, who wear black and stand in the dark. The light that unifies the two dilutes their existing on two different levels of reality. The yellow-clad witch seems to break from the dim world of fantasy and invade the real world, or at least the mind of the cowering victim. The same effect is achieved in The Sleep of Reason (fig. 7). An enormous owl with extended wings (comparable to the witch’s outstretched arms) menacingly approaches the sleeper and is merged with him by means of the glaring light, while the rest of the fowl are cast into shadow.

The lack of division between physical reality and fantasy in The Spell is significant. Oblivious to the fact that he is hallucinating, the melancholic perceives the ghoulish host of witches as real; hence, by blurring the boundaries between the two, Goya effectively conveys the actual experience of the delusional. The difficulty melancholics have in distinguishing illusion from reality was elucidated in contemporary demonological discourse. The scholar Pierre Bayle, responding in Réponse aux questions d’un provincial (Answer to the questions of a provincial, 1703) to the pan-European phenomenon of witchcraft, implores the reader »not to accuse of fraud those who protest that phantoms have appeared to them,« because they cannot distinguish between imagination and true sight, as happens to the dreamer during sleep or to the insane: »The imagi-

  1. Barbara Maria Stafford, From »Brilliant Ideas« to

»Fitful Thoughts«: Conjecturing the Unseen in Late

nation will be stronger than sight, and will paint its objects as if they were present, in such a way that although a person may be awake he will believe that one sees a thing which is not present to the eyes, but only to the internal senses. Consider a bit what happens in our dreams. The most reasonable heads become extravagant while sleeping, and create chimeras more bizarre than those of the madmen whom one shuts up in the asylums. The same thing will happen in much the same way to those who are not asleep, if by the effect of some fear, or of some great internal emotion, the acts of the imagination have more force than those of sight, hearing, etc.«60

The confusion between hallucination and dream also reverberates in medical texts, which explain that the »[melancholic’s] sleeps and his wakings are so much the same, that he knows not how to distinguish them, and many times when he dreams, he believes he is broad awake and sees visions.«61 Echoing this ambivalence, the victim’s delusionary experience in The Spell is at one and the same time a nightmarish dream (reinforced by the nocturnal setting and his nightshirt) and a melancholic delirium (indicated by his intertwined fingers and staring wakefulness).

Goya’s strategy consists in defeating the expectation that there should be a visual device to help us recognize the divide. He does not wreathe his phantasmagorical figures in clouds or vaporous mists; he employs no flashing lights, no shifts in scale. The victim’s psychic disturbance — projected whole and undivided into the theatrical space of the picture, as a spectacle for our consideration — seems to constitute the image. The absence of a mediating sign such as a cloud to differentiate between the two realms reinforces the victim’s inability to distinguish between the observed and the imaginary. This impediment reduces the immediate intelligibility of The Spell, but it also invites the beholder to experience the protagonist’s confusion. We are forced to ask ourselves: Are the witches material

Eighteenth-Century Art, in: Zeitschrift fiir Kunstgeschicbte XLVIII, 1985, 329—63 (quotation from 354).


11. Francisco Goya, The Devil’s Lamp, 1797—98, oil on canvas. The National Gallery, Londonimage29 1

beings or hallucinations caused by some internal disturbance of melancholy?

This essay has stressed the latter possibility, that the witches in The Spell were meant to be »diagnosed« within a rational framework of medical pathology. They are a representation within a representation, signaled by the delusional victim. Another picture from the witchcraft series has a similar structure; but this time the sign that denotes it is not body language but an actual text. In The Devil’s Lamp (fig. 11) the inscription »LAM DESCO« at lower right stands for »låmpara descomunal« (monstrous lamp), the first two words with which the character Don

  1. Translated in Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters, eds., Witchcraft in Europe 400—1700: A Documentary History, 2nd ed., Philadelphia 2001, 440—41.
  2. Samuel Butler, Characters, 1659, as quoted in Clark


12. Melancholie mit angstvollen Wahnvorstellungene, from Max Leidesdorf’s Lehrbuch der

psychischen Krankheiten, Erlangen 1865, fig. I

Claudio addresses a lamp in the early eighteenthcentury play El hechizado por fuerza (Bewitched against his will) by Antonio de Zamora.62 These words, which are inscribed on a large book situated at the front edge Of the stage, perhaps in place of a supposed prompter, betray the nature of the scene as a staged performance and underscore the lack of belief in the existence of witchcraft. A semiotic role similar to this inscribed »footnote« is assumed by the cowering victim in The Spell. Located, like the inscription, at the right forefront, he belongs to the real world but clarifies that the spectacle behind him does not.

(as note 32), 56. A similar statement was made by the physician Friedrich Hoffman in 1690s: Jackson (as note 29), 118.

  1. Nordström (as note 12), 154—58.

Epilogue: Nineteenth-Century Pathology

Nineteenth-century medical studies would likewise endorse the decoding of the victim’s body language in Goya’s Spell as a melancholy disease symptomatic of a vexed imagination. Reliance on the body’s signs in diagnosing psychopathological behavior began at the turn of the century, when the French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel codified, in Traité médico-philosophique sur Paliénation mentale, ou la manie (Medico-philosophical treatise on mental alienation or mania, Paris 1801), a set of physiognomic and corporeal characters as a means of diagnosing mental illness.63 The Viennese psychiatrist Max Leidesdorf embraced this method in his Lehrbuch der psychischen Krankheiten (Textbook of psychiatric illnesses, Erlangen 1865). This treatise includes five engraved portraits based on photographs of insane inmates in the asylum at Hall.64 One of

  1. Sander L. Gilman, Seeing the Insane: A Cultural History ofMadness and Art in the Western World, New York 1982, reprint, Lincoln/London 1996, 72—101.

them, identified in a short passage as a 38-yearold German who became insane after losing his child, is shown with intertwined fingers (fig. 12). The accompanying title dispels any ambiguity regarding the meaning of his gesture: »Melancholy with fearful delusions« (Melancholie mit angstvollen Wahnvorstellungen). While the intertwined fingers codify the inmate’s melancholy, his »fearful delusions« are signified by his oblique gaze. He is distracted from the reality in front of him and fixated on an imaginary world that resides in a space beyond representation. Leidesdorf’s inmate confirms the meaning of the gesture and gaze of Goya’s victim, yet the use of body language in the two tableaux is essentially different. In The Spell the body rhetoric reflects an artist’s rendering of the conventional signs Of the melancholic; the engraved photo purports to record the actual, impulsive behavior of a person afflicted with mental illness.

  1. The engraved photos are also illustrated in Ibid.,


Photo credits: 1 Photo: Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, NY. — 2 Photo: Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. — 3 Photo 0 2009 Museum Associates/LACMA/Art Resource, NY. — 4—7, 10 Photo O Trustees of the British Museum. — 8 Photo O Fundaci6 Institut Amatller d’Art Hispånic — 9 Photo O The Art Institute of Chicago. — 11 Photo O The National Gallery, London. — 12 Max Leidesdorf, Lehrbuch derpsychischen Krankheiten, Erlangen 1865, fig. 1.

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ZEITSCHRIFr         KUNSTGESCHICHTE 75. Band/ 2012        


An >Enlightened< View of Witches

Melancholy and Delusionary Experience in Goya's Spell*

On 27 June 1798 the Duke and Duchess of Osuna purchased from Francisco Goya (probably by commission) a series Of six cabinet pictures incorporating the subject Of witchcraft to decorate their suburban villa, La Alameda, near Madrid. l By this time the controversy about the existence of witches had virtually been resolved: most inquisitors and philosophers had refuted their reality, and prosecutions of alleged witches had dramatically declined? It would therefore be reasonable to assume that Goya's witchcraft scenes were conceived and received as pure fiction.3 Indeed, art historians have variously deemed the series »imaginary,«4 image1 11 »frivolous,«6 »entertainingly terrifying«7 and a »satire on the senses.«8 My intention in this essay is not to challenge this notion but to explore another facet in Goya's series relating to the contemporary incredulity in witchcraft. Because the six pictures

* I would like to thank Mitchell Merback for his careful reading and useful suggestions.

I For the series and the payment records, see Pierre Gassier and Juliet Wilson, The Life and Complete Work Of Francisco Goya, New York 1971, 164, cat. nos 659—64; Juliet Wilson-Bareau and Manuela B. Mena Marqués, Goya: Truth and Fantasy, The Small Paintings, exh. cat. Madrid: Museo del Prado, London: Royal Academy of Arts, Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, New Haven/London 1994, 212.

  1. Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra, Brian P. Levack, and Roy Porter, Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eigh— teenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Philadelphia 1999, 130—34.
  2. Whether early modern images of witchcraft intended to substantiate or refute the existence of witches is an inquiry recently entertained in scholarly literature. Basically, it has propelled two antithetical answers: a visual image reinforces the veracity of witches on the premise that »seeing is believing« or, alternatively, dissuades such belief by virtue of its fanciful content. See Patricia Emison, Truth and Bizzarria in an Engraving of Lo stregozzo, in: Art Bulletin LXXXI, 1999, 623—36, esp. 631—33; Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief, Chicago/London 2002, 106—23; Linda. C. Hults, The Witch as Muse:
  3. ...


מק"ט 8cfe3a313847 קטגוריה
מק"ט 8cfe3a313847 קטגוריה


סיוע בכתיבת עבודה מקורית ללא סיכונים מיותרים!

כנסו עכשיו! הצטרפו לאלפי סטודנטים מרוצים. מצד אחד עבודה מקורית שלכם ללא שום סיכון ומצד שני הקלה משמעותית בנטל.