Witches Preparing for Sabbath

Andries Stock Netherlandish
Designed by Jacques de Gheyn II Netherlandish
Published by Nicolaes de Clerck Dutch

Not on view

To appreciate the complex symbolism and rich details of the world of witches represented in this print close examination is needed. In the centre three witches prepare ointments that they will smear over their bodies enabling them to fly. The book before them presumably contains the recipe they need for their concoction. At the right another witch riding a broomstick fuelled by the vapors from a cauldron is being dragged by the hair by a demon. In the upper left, witches clutch bolts of fire, a reference to their power to wreak havoc by creating storms of hail and lightning to ruin crops. Below to the left, Cupid seems to be struggling with a winged demon. This has been understood as a battle between the perverse loves of witches and the pure love of Cupid. Many other details throughout the composition add to our enjoyment of it.

During the time this print was made many people believed in the reality of witches and their activities. We do not know for certain the attitude of Jacques de Gheyn who designed the print but there is some evidence to think he was a skeptic and regarded subjects of witchcraft with bemusement.

Witches Preparing for Sabbath, Andries Stock (Netherlandish, 1572/82–after 1648), Engraving

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