Artworks
Scenes of Witchcraft: Morning
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ewatkins's picture

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Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft: Morning is a rather wicked painting if I may say so myself.

The second in a spooky series of four circular paintings (or 'tondi'), Morning depicts a rather harsh start to the day as a young witch impales a labrador-sized frog on her sword.

Rosa depicted various witchy scenes like this one throughout his painting career. Perhaps the most interesting thing about his depiction of witches is that they were not in line with the terrible fear of witches seizing all of Europe at the time. If anything, they were part of his openly rebellious, anti-clerical streak as an artist. What’s more, based on Rosa’s other paintings--dark, powerful landscapes on the brink of disaster and bloodbaths of violence--it doesn’t seem out of the question that these paintings were a serious endeavor to portray dark sorcery. The series of scenes portrays various types of magic, ranging from love potions to levitation to transformation. They approach these topics with a dark gravity that was likely inspired by Ovid’s "Metamorphosis" in which magical transformation (metamorphosis) is one of the primary subjects.

Rosa was at the head of what became an artistic backlash against the witch hunting craze, primarily in Europe by the upper class. They were also likely influenced by the mass prints of witches by people like Albrecht Durer that were circulating through Europe at the time.

Rosa, who was also a poet, composed a poem about witchcraft at the same time he painted these four tondi. The poem details the story of a witch, who is likely the one depicted in this painting. She is a young lady whose lover betrays her, then ignores her when she cries. She curses him, and he begins to burn. Fiery stuff.

Even if the works were not intended for a large audience, they succeeded in stoking a fire in the imaginations of the people and a myriad of copies were produced immediately thereafter.

Sources

Sources

  1. Anonymous. "Scenes of Witchcraft: Morning." Cleveland Museum of Art. February 02, 2019. Accessed February 05, 2019. https://clevelandart.org/art/1977.37.1.
  2. Jones, Jonathan. "Bewitched: Salvator Rosa's Satanic Art | Jonathan Jones." The Guardian. April 14, 2010. Accessed February 05, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2010/apr/13/s....
  3. Kmiers. "The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa's Scenes of Witchcraft." Under the Trees (from "The Public Gardens") | Cleveland Museum of Art. June 01, 2015. Accessed February 05, 2019. https://www.clevelandart.org/exhibitions/novel-and-bizarre-salvato
  4. Salerno, Luigi, and Ira Kohn. "Four Witchcraft Scenes by Salvator Rosa." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 65, no. 7 (1978): 225-31. http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.newschool.edu/stable/25159591.