The Coven, Goya

The Coven, Goya
The Coven, Goya

As strange as the work that concerns us here may seem, The Sabbath was painted by the neoclassicist artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and was part of the paintings that adorned the walls of his own house and that we know today with the nickname of Black Paintings. Perhaps this type of pictorial work was not the most decorative for a house and even more so since it is the house of a highly renowned painter such as Goya, but we must remember that the painter from Maño decorated the walls of his house in a difficult time when illness that left him deaf became more and more evident in such a way that his physical and personal concerns were transmitted to the walls of his own home through these paintings.


Today the fourteen canvases that make up the Black Paintings are exhibited in the Prado Museum in Madrid, however, and originally, all the canvases were frescoes painted on wall that were transferred to the canvas with the plaster technique around the year 1874. A banker of French origin had acquired the artist's house after his death and his intention was to sell the canvases at the Paris Exhibition held in 1878, at the not finding a buyer he himself donated them to the Prado Museum.

The work that concerns us here was painted between 1819 and 1823, it was a large work in horizontal format that was almost five meters longlength and a meter and a half in height, currently the canvas that we can see is about four and a half meters in length since it was cut at the ends presumably to adapt to a more limited space at the Paris Exposition.

The Sabbath or The Great Bastard as it is also known, represents a meeting of witches and warlocks in front of Satan who has been represented as a large male goat. It seems that the work represents the initiation of a new witch who would be the woman next to the bastard dressed in a white robe that even covers her head. On her part, the demon remains in the shadows and when she stands with her back to the viewer, her face is not visible either. At the opposite end we find a woman sitting on a chair and dressed in a kind of black shawl whose face is also blurred.

By cutting the canvas we see how the center of the composition has changed with respect to the original and now we find it in the woman who is dressed in black and appears covered with a white headdress. The colors are dark as in the rest of the paintings that decorated her house, hence the name Black Paintings, with a very loose brush that blurs the shapes and a large amount of impasto in which the loaded brushstrokes are noticeable. The work achieves a great sense of circular movement with the position of the group.

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