Supernatural and fantastic works hold a significant place in Francisco Goya’s oeuvre, yet their meaning is often perplexing on both iconographic and symbolic levels. Particularly enigmatic is Flying Witches (Museo del Prado), one of Goya’s six witchcraft paintings purchased in 1798 by the Duke and Duchess of Osuna. An examination of the hitherto misconstrued bodily configuration of the witches’ victim reveals the supernatural phenomenon described in the scene. Although the victim’s convulsive body invokes the pathos formula of the famous Laocoön statue group, it registers demonic possession, not generic suffering. That Goya conceived Flying Witches in its entirety as a scene of possession is supported by its similarities with two images: an illustration in Laurent Bordelon’s History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle and Raphael’s Transfiguration. As an expression of Enlightenment ideas, Flying Witches cues scepticism towards the supernatural and censures the Inquisition as an archaic institution.


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pp. 176-207
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