Francisco Goya created The Great He-Goat or Witches’ Sabbath between 1821 and 1823. It is an oil mural that explores the themes of aging, death, violence, and intimidation. The witches depicted in the painting are a disturbing mix of young and old, some with young and healthy faces. Goya painted it directly onto the walls of his Madrid home as part of a series of murals known as the Black Paintings.
Goya’s work often contained criticisms of rulers and their associates, and he lived a mostly reclusive life due to his deafness in his later years. The Spanish title for The Great He-Goat, Aquelarre, is derived from the Basque term for Witches’ Sabbath. Another painter, Antonio Brugada, gave the title El Gran Cabron to the painting.
The Great He-Goat is a powerful work of art that presents a disturbing and frightening scene. It showcases Goya’s brilliant technique and skill, especially in creating the delicate blending of young and old facial features on the witches. It invites viewers to observe and contemplate the darker aspects of human existence, exploring the darker reaches of humanity’s psyche. The painting remains an essential work of art and a testament to the talent of Goya.