Francisco Goya, 1799, from the Caprichos series.
Francisco Goya’s drawing of witches on a broom was part of his larger series of 80 prints first published in 1799 which the artist explained as expositions of society’s "foibles and follies". These drawings were made during a period in which Goya suffered a near debilitating neurological condition which left him deeply depressed. Goya’s satirical interest is pointed out in the caption he included with this drawing: “The broom is perhaps the most essential tool for a witch. For besides being useful for sweeping, it can, according to many a story, be changed into a mule that runs so fast that even the Devil can’t catch up with it.”
In this drawing, Goya satirizes the church’s rule, as set forth in the 13th century Canon Episcopi, that believing in witches is itself a sin against God. His drawing overemphasizes the unlikeliness of the existence of the witch largely by playing up the androgynous nature of this sub or non-human being. The comic nature of the rendering pokes fun at the church’s fear of what Goya obviously considers to be harmless or at least unfounded beliefs.