Witches at the British Museum

The British Museum has been invaded by witches - at least until January 2015. A new free exhibit, Witches and Wicked Bodies, will look at the history of witches in Great Britain from the 1400s until the Victorian era, and will include artists' renditions, objects of sorcery and magic, as well as artifacts from antiquity depicting famous witches.

From the exhibit description:

Efforts to understand and interpret seemingly malevolent deeds – as well apportion blame for them and elicit confessions through hideous acts of torture – have had a place in society since classical antiquity and Biblical times. Men, women and children have all been accused of sorcery. The magus, or wise practitioner of ‘natural magic’ or occult ‘sciences’, has traditionally been male, but the majority of those accused and punished for witchcraft, especially since the Reformation, have been women. They are shown as monstrous hags with devil-worshipping followers. They represent an inversion of a well-ordered society and the natural world.

The focus of the exhibition is on prints and drawings from the British Museum’s collection, alongside a few loans from the V&A, the Ashmolean, Tate Britain and the British Library. Witches fly on broomsticks or backwards on dragons or beasts, as in Albrecht Dürer’s Witch Riding backwards on a Goat of 1501, or Hans Baldung’s Witches’ Sabbath from 1510. They are often depicted within cave-like kitchens surrounded by demons, performing evil spells, or raising the dead within magic circles, as in the powerful work of Salvator Rosa, Jacques de Gheyn and Jan van der Velde.

The exhibition will run until Janury 11, 2015.