Bruegel’s Witches Exhibition


This exhibition brings together more than forty images of sorcery and witchcraft by great Dutch and Flemish masters, including Pieter Bruegel and David Teniers the Younger. Images of witchery are also inextricably bound up with the witch trials. The first of these trials took place around 1430. This gave rise to a trend for the colourful depiction of witches in the art studios of Bruges. Little flying witches embellished the margins of manuscripts; full-page miniatures showed witches celebrating the Sabbath. Climate changes also influenced the way witches were depicted. From the end of the sixteenth century onwards, northern Europe was afflicted by a century-long period of extremely cold winters and relatively cold summers, nowadays known as the Little Ice Age. This period coincided with the Eighty Years’ War in the Netherlands, when there was also great famine. In times of misfortune, people always need a scapegoat, and it was widely assumed that the witches had caused the bad weather and the scarcity of food through their sorcery. This led to an increase in witch persecution and prosecution. Later, the witch’s image changed yet again. In this way, witches and wizards continue to fascinate us all: just consider the world-wide success of Harry Potter!

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