Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Het heksengeloof verbeeld - 17de eeuwse voorstellingen in de Nederlanden

Lucas 1996
Lucas, Marijke S.
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 1996
Bron: Jaarboek Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1996, pp. 91-140

Lucas 1996


“Het heksengeloof verbeeld. 17de eeuwse voorstellingen in de Nederlanden” (Marijke S. Lucas) 1996

[in: Jaarboek Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1996, pp. 91-140]


In this contribution to the 1996 annual of the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts the author discusses some depictions of witches from the seventeenth-century Netherlands. Among them works by David Teniers the Younger, Frans Francken the Younger, David Ryckaert III, Charles Emmanuel Biset, Jacques de Gheyn II, Cornelis Saftleven, Leonaert Bramer and Jan van de Velde II. Because a lot of motifs in the seventeenth-century representations of witches from the Netherlands can be traced back to the work of Bosch and Bruegel, Lucas first offers a brief discussion of Bosch’s St. Anthony triptych (Lisbon) and of the print St. James and the Magician Hermogenes which is based on a drawing by Bruegel.


According to Lucas Bosch has never depicted witches in the true sense, but in his scenes about the temptations of St. Anthony we can see female seductresses, representing the capital sin of luxury, among all sorts of diabolical creatures [p. 93]. In the rest of her article Lucas mentions a number of motifs in the seventeenth-century depictions of witches discussed by her, which show similarities to motifs from the works of Bosch. These influences are the following.

  • A ‘skeleton monster’ with the cap of a monk with Teniers (compare the central panel of Bosch’s St. Anthony triptych in Lisbon). According to Lucas this figure is mocking the Christian faith and is a satire on monks [p. 104].
  • Monsters with an animal skull with Teniers (compare a similar monster riding a goose in the Lisbon triptych) [pp. 112 / 114].
  • Monsters whose nose is an instrument on which they are blowing (‘nose-blowers’) with Teniers (compare the central panel of the Haywain triptych and the central panel of the Vienna Last Judgment triptych) [pp. 105-107 / 112-114].
  • Flying fish with Teniers (compare the Lisbon triptych). Flying fish symbolize the world upside down, feel at home with witches and refer to diabolical serras: in medieval bestiaries these were often described as whales, large sea monsters, creatures of diabolical origin [p. 111].
  • A monster with a funnel on its head with Teniers (compare the diabolical messenger in the left interior panel of the Lisbon triptych). According to Bax the funnel refers to unreliability, intemperance and squandering [p. 114 (note 68)].
  • Toads with Frans Francken. According to Ripa toads are symbols of greed. In Bosch’s paintings toads also refer to the sin of luxury. Greed and luxury are striking features of witches.


When representing monsters Teniers stays closer to Bosch’s and Bruegel’s pictorial language than Francken. Francken’s witch scenes have more sinister details [p. 121]. Bosch’s and Bruegel’s monsters are often a combination of loose parts, sometimes resulting in a comical effect. With Ryckaert we see devils built up as a whole, which makes them more realistic [p. 124].



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