Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Aquelarre, or The Great He-Goat
1820 - 1823
Wall (transferred to canvas)
140,5 cm x 435,7 cm
Genre and Society
On display
Quinta del Sordo, Madrid. Mariano Goya, 1823. Javier Goya, 1833. Mariano Goya, 1854. Segundo Colmenares, 1859. Louis Rodolphe Coumont, 1863. Baron Frédéric Emile d´Erlanger, 1873. Acquisiton for the Prado Museum, 1881/1889

The mural paintings that decorated the house known as “la Quinta del Sordo,” where Goya lived have come to be known as the Black Paintings, because he used so many dark pigments and blacks in them, and also because of their somber subject matter. The private and intimate character of that house allowed the artist to express himself with great liberty. He painted directly on the walls in what must have been mixed technique, as chemical analysis reveals the use of oils in these works.

The Baron Émile d'Erlanger acquired “la Quinta” in 1873 and had the paintings transferred to canvas. The works suffered enormously in the process, losing a large amount of paint. Finally, the Baron donated these paintings to the State, and they were sent to the Prado Museum, where they have been on view since 1889.

Brugada called this work The Big Billy Goat, alluding to the devil as a Ram served by the witches in their Sabbaths. The goat appears on the left. Seated in front of him is a crowd of men and women with animal-like features, witches and warlocks that have met to practice their Sabbath. On the right, a young woman sits. Perhaps she is waiting to be initiated into their rites. Goya used the world of witches to denounce the degradation of humankind.

When it was removed from the wall, more than 1.4 meters of this composition were cut off, so that the young woman mentioned above was no longer in the center of the composition, as she is in Yriarte's description.

Despite the multiple explanations offered by art historians, these works continue to be mysterious and enigmatic, yet they present many of the esthetic problems and moral considerations appearing in Goya's works.

The mural paintings from “la Quinta del Sordo” (the Black Paintings), have been determinant in the modern-day consideration of this painter from Aragon. The German Expressionists and the Surrealist movement, as well as representative of other contemporary artistic movements, including literature and even cinema, have seen the origins of modern art in this series of compositions by an aged Goya, isolated in his own world and creating with absolute liberty.

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