Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)

Witches’ Sabbath
Artist Francisco Goya
Year 1798
Medium Mural
Location Originally on the plaster walls of his home
Famous Paintings by Goya
Saturn Devouring His Son
The Third of May 1808
La Maja Desnuda
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Witches’ Sabbath
La Maja Vestida
La Cometa
The Forge
The Dog
Complete Works

Otherwise known as “The Great He-Goat,” Francisco Goya delivers a visually stunning and historically terrifying representation to this famous mural that graced the mid 1800’s that brought to life vivid and horrifying memories of the Inquisition of Spain.


The painting depicts Satan surrounded by a group of frightened and disturbingly disfigured witches. Satan appears as a near-shadow goat man whose characteristics are not easily seen or determined. The “goat man” appears with a wide-open mouth as if it is screaming curses (or instructions) to his nearby followers. It appeals to the contemporary belief that power is asserted through fear – and not from respect for authority or title. The women vary in age but share a similar distortion throughout the work. They seem frightened but overwhelmingly docile as if they acquiesce to Satan’s orders and intent to obey. It is considered to be a part of the fourteen or more paintings depicting Goya’s “Black Paintings.”


Francisco Goya took extreme measures and risks at the heels of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition as well as the Witch Hunts and Trials that followed not long after. Goya directly and visually assaults the senses and the mindset of the time, which reveled in superstition and religious horror on the darker side of human nature. Although this mural (among other works by Goya) was moderately concealed at the time of its creation out of the fear of recrimination for his artistic commentary, it is considered to be one of his finest works – all of which appear later in his career.

Francisco Goya retreated from the public eye and was continually feared of becoming mad. He became deaf in the early 1790’s. It was a misfortune that plagued him until his death. Not much is known or recorded about his thoughts later in his career. He lived quietly outside of Madrid and enjoyed a life of almost complete solitude. The Witches’ Sabbath, among other paintings, was originally painted directly onto the walls of his home and they were later moved – incurring some damage in the process. The painting is now housed in Madrid where it is featured in the Museo del Prado.

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