Francisco de Goya

Witches’ Sabbath (El aquelarre)

Witches’ Sabbath (El aquelarre)
Datos Generales
Ca. 1820 - 1823
The Prado National Museum. Madrid, Madrid, Spain
140.5 x 435.7 cm
Técnica y soporte
Oil painting on plaster transferred to canvas
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Undisputed work
El Prado National Museum
Ficha: realización/revisión
27 Oct 2010 / 24 Aug 2022

See Leocadia.

Análisis artístico

This painting was located on the long wall of the left-hand side of the lower floor of the house known as the Quinta del Sordo, opposite The Pilgrimage to San Isidro.

The painting shows a witches' gathering in the presence of a devil in the form of a male goat, an idea that Goya had already explored in works produced for the Alameda Palace of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, as well as in prints from the series Caprices (Caprichos) and Follies (Disparates).

The demon presides over the ceremony accompanied by a kind of assistant on his right. On the far right there is a girl awaiting her initiation. The attendants at this hellish gathering form a great mass of figures characterized by deformed gestures and distorted facial expressions conveying the horror and animal instincts that the male goat figure is transmitting to the crowd.

Nordström has attempted to give a symbolic meaning to the painting, linking it with Saturn as the god of melancholy. This relationship is justified by the use of the image of a male goat, the symbol for Capricorn ruled by the planet Saturn.

The composition is focused on the centre of the painting where the crowd of figures is situated, although the work suffered some changes following its removal from the wall. Photographs taken before the paintings were transferred to canvas show that the restorer removed almost a metre and a half of the painting. In the original format the girl sitting down would have been almost in the centre of the composition, and not on the far side of the painting where she sits today.

Black is the predominant colour in the painting, along with some touches of flesh tones, ochres, greens, and dirty greys used for the clothing. The artist used violent brushstrokes and rapid marks in accordance with the expressionist style of the scene.


Apart from the restoration work carried out by Martínez Cubells in 1973, further restoration work was also carried out in 1954 by Pablo y Alarcón for the Prado Museum.

  • Pinturas Negras en la Exposición Universal de París
    Palacio del Trocadero
    from may 20th to November 10th 1878
  • Goya. 250 Aniversario
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    consultant editor Juan J. Luna. From March 29th to June 2nd 1996
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    Goya, sa vie, son œuvre
    ParísHenri Plon
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  • BERUETE Y MORET, Aureliano
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    MadridGoya Hispano-Inglesa de Reaseguros, D.L.
    pp. 127-128
  • GASSIER, Pierre y WILSON, Juliet
    Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    ParísOffice du livre
    p. 328, cat. 1623
  • vol. I, p. 378, cat. 700
  • Xavier Salas
    BarcelonaCarroggio S.A. de Ediciones
    p. 201, cat. 584
  • MULLER, Priscilla
    Goya's Black Paintings: Truth and Reason in Light and Liberty
    New YorkHispanic Society of America
    pp. 155-167
  • NORDSTRÖM, Folke
    Goya, Saturno y melancolía. Consideraciones sobre el arte de Goya
    MadridLa Balsa de la Medusa (edición original: Estocolmo, Almqvis & Wiksell, 1962)
  • ARNAIZ, José Manuel
    Las pinturas negras
    MadridEdiciones Antiquaria, S.A
    pp. 94-95
  • MORENO DE LAS HERAS, Margarita
    Goya. Pinturas del Museo del Prado
    MadridMuseo Nacional del Prado
    pp. 308
  • JUNQUERA, Paulina
    Las Pinturas Negras de Goya
    LondonScala Publishers Ltd.
    pp. 66-67
Enlaces externos
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