Witches at their Incantations is a painting by the Italian Baroque artist Salvator Rosa (1615–1673), completed in about 1646. Rosa had become interested in the supernatural during the 1640s, and this painting depicts a scene reminiscent of a witches’ sabbath.
The scene is dawn, with a hint of blue sky emerging above the distant hill. The central figure of a hanged man, one witch smoking the corpse while another cuts its toenails, is surrounded by a monster resembling a dinosaur skeleton, apparently being offered a swaddled infant, and another naked witch using a wax effigy to cast a love spell while yet another is stirring her cauldron. To the left is a shrouded figure looking over a skeleton being raised from its coffin by two men and forced to sign a document.
The art critic Jonathan Jones has described Witches at their Incantations as a “distillation of gloom”, and a representation of the practices attributed to the followers of Satan. But as he goes on to say, rather than being an expression of the 17th-century belief in witchcraft it may alternatively be a study of imagination, an early work of the Age of Enlightenment, which emphasised the pursuit of knowledge obtained by reason and the evidence of the senses.
Witches at their Incantations was acquired by The National Gallery in 1984.