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Where do witches come from?

[ 2014-10-13 16:56] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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图:喀耳刻(Masterpics / Alamy)

Images of alluring young witches and hideous hags have been around for centuries – but what do they mean? Alastair Sooke investigates.

Ask any Western child to draw a witch, and the chances are that he or she will come up with something familiar: most likely a hook-nosed hag wearing a pointy hat, riding a broomstick or stirring a cauldron. But where did this image come from? The answer is more arresting and complex than you might think, as I discovered last week when I visited Witches and Wicked Bodies, a new exhibition at the British Museum in London that explores the iconography of witchcraft.

Witches have a long and elaborate history. Their forerunners appear in the Bible, in the story of King Saul consulting the so-called Witch of Endor. They also crop up in the classical era in the form of winged harpies and screech-owl-like “strixes” – frightening flying creatures that fed on the flesh of babies.

Circe, the enchantress from Greek mythology, was a sort of witch, able to transform her enemies into swine. So was her niece Medea. The ancient world, then, was responsible for establishing a number of tropes that later centuries would come to associate with witches.

Yet it wasn’t until the early Renaissance that our modern perception of the witch was truly formed. And one man of the period arguably did more than any other to define the way that we still imagine witches today: the German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer.

Double trouble

In a pair of hugely influential engravings, Dürer determined what would become the dual stereotype of a witch’s appearance. On the one hand, as in The Four Witches (1497), she could be young, nubile and lissom – her physical charms capable of enthralling men. On the other, as in Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat (c 1500), she could be old and hideous.

The latter print presents a naked crone sitting on top of a horned goat, a symbol of the devil. She has withered, drooping dugs for breasts, her mouth is open as she shrieks spells and imprecations, and her wild, wind-blasted hair streams unnaturally in the direction of her travel (a sign of her magical powers). She is even clutching a broomstick. Here is the matriarch of the witches that we find in popular culture today.

For art historians, though, the interesting question is what provided Renaissance artists with the model for this appalling vision. One theory is that Dürer and his contemporaries were inspired by the personification of Envy as conceived by the Italian artist Andrea Mantegna (c 1431-1506) in his engraving Battle of the Sea Gods.

“Mantegna’s figure of Envy formed a kind of call for the Renaissance of the witch as a hideous old hag,” explains the artist and writer Deanna Petherbridge, who has co-curated the exhibition at the British Museum. “Envy was emaciated, her breasts were no longer good, which is why she was jealous of women, and she attacked babies and ate them. She often had snakes for hair.”

A good example of this Envy-type of witch can be seen in an extraordinarily intense Italian print known as Lo Stregozzo (The Witch’s Procession) (c 1520). Here, a malevolent witch with open mouth, hair in turmoil and desiccated dugs clutches a steaming pot (or cauldron), and rides a fantastical, monstrous skeleton. Her right hand reaches for the head of a baby from the heap of infants at her feet.

This print was produced during the ‘golden age’ of witchcraft imagery: the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries, when vicious witch trials convulsed Europe (the peak of the witch-hunts lasted from 1550 to 1630). “Across Europe, there was the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, fantastic poverty and social change,” says Petherbridge. “Even King James in his text Daemonologie [1597] was asking: why was there such a proliferation of witches? Everybody assumed it was because the world had got so foul that it was coming to an end.”

As a result there was an outpouring of brutally misogynistic witchcraft imagery, with artists taking advantage of the invention of the printing press to disseminate material rapidly and widely. “Witchcraft is closely allied to the print revolution,” Petherbridge explains. Many of these prints, such as the powerful colour woodcut Witches’ Sabbath (1510) by Dürer’s pupil Hans Baldung Grien, can be seen in the British Museum’s exhibition.

By the 18th Century, though, witches were no longer considered a threat. Instead they were understood as the superstitious imaginings of peasants. Still, that didn’t stop great artists such as Goya from depicting them.

Los Caprichos, Goya’s collection of 80 capricious (or whimsical) etchings from 1799, uses witches as well as goblins, demons and monsters as vehicles for satire. “Goya uses witchcraft metaphorically to point out the evils of society,” says Petherbridge. “His prints are actually about social things: greed, war, the corruption of the clergy.”

Broom with a view

Goya did not believe in the literal reality of witches, but his prints are still among the most potent images of witchcraft ever made. Plate 68 of Los Caprichos is especially memorable: a wizened hag teaches an attractive younger witch how to fly a broomstick. Both are naked, and the print was surely meant to be salacious: the Spanish ‘volar’ (to fly) is slang for having an orgasm.

Around the same time, there was a vogue among artists working in England for depicting theatrical scenes of witchcraft. The Swiss-born artist Henry Fuseli, for instance, made several versions of the famous moment when Macbeth meets the three witches for the first time on the heath.

By now, though, the art of witchcraft was in decline. It lacked the strange imaginative force that had animated the genre in earlier centuries. In the 19th Century, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolists were both drawn to the figure of the witch, whom they recast as a femme fatale. But their sinister seductresses arguably belong more to the realm of sexual fantasy than high art.

The one constant throughout the history of the art of witchcraft is misogyny. As a woman, how does this make Petherbridge feel? “At the beginning when I was looking at these images, I was quite distressed because they are so ageist,” she says. “Of course, now I’ve stopped being shocked by them, and I think that they are saved by their excess, satire and invention. Artists were often drawn to these scenes because they offered drama. They were free to spread their wings and come up with all kinds of bizarre imagery. Yes, these scenes represent the demonisation of women. But often they are keenly linked to social critique. Witches are the scapegoats on which the evil of society is projected.”


令人销魂的年轻女巫和奇丑无比的巫婆形象已有几百年的历史了——但这代表了什么?英国广播公司(BBC)记者阿拉斯泰尔·苏克(Alastair Sooke)带你走进古老而神秘的女巫世界。

随便叫一个西方小孩画个女巫,结果可能都差不多:鹰钩鼻、尖顶帽、骑着个扫帚或搅着个大锅。但这些形象又从何而来?答案可能比你想的更有趣,也更复杂。上周,我去了大英博物馆参观一个主题展——女巫和邪恶躯体(Witches and Wicked Bodies),领略了巫术的肖像学。

女巫的历史可以追溯到很久以前。她们祖先曾出现在扫罗王求教死灵师因达尔(Witch of Endor)的圣经故事中。她们还以带翼的鹰身女妖形象和夜间发出凄厉鸣叫的灰林鸮(strixes)形象出现在古典时期。传言灰林鸮是一种以猎食婴儿为主的猛禽。


直到文艺复兴早期,现代的女巫观才正式形成。而当时有一个人,他对女巫形象塑造之深大概无人能敌,他就是德国画家、版画家阿尔布雷特·丢勒(Albrecht Dürer)


丢勒的两幅雕刻品,让女巫的形象深入人心。他1497年的作品《四女巫》(The Four Witches)告诉我们,女巫可以是体态轻盈的妙龄女郎,其外貌足以称得上是男性杀手。而另一方面,丢勒于1500年左右创作的作品《倒骑在山羊上的女巫》(Witch Riding backwards on a Goat)又呈现了另一种老态龙钟的丑巫婆形象。


对艺术史学家来说,人们更想知道,又是什么使得文艺复兴时期的艺术家能创作出如此骇人形象。有一种说法是,意大利艺术家安德里亚·蒙塔纳(Andrea Mantegna)于1431-1506年左右创作的《海神之战》(Battle of the Sea Gods)中对“嫉妒”的拟人化手法,给丢勒及其同时代画家带去了灵感。

作为该展览负责人之一,艺术家兼作家的迪安娜·佩西布里奇(Deanna Petherbridge)解释道:“蒙塔纳手中的恩维(Envy)多少影响了文艺复兴时期对女巫又老又丑的形象定位。由于自身瘦骨嶙峋,胸部松弛下垂,因而对女性心生嫉妒。她袭击婴儿,并吃掉他们,还经常以蛇为发。”

嫉妒类女巫的典例可以在意大利名作《女巫集会》(意大利名:Lo Stregozzo,英文名The Witch’s Procession,时间:约1520年)中找到。它刻画了一个张着大口的邪恶女巫,头发乱七八糟、胸部干瘪,抓着个大汽锅,骑着荒诞怪异的巨型骨架。她脚踩成堆婴儿尸骸,伸出右手要去抓其中一个脑袋。


许多歧视妇女的巫术意象因而大量涌现。加上印刷机的发明,艺术家更是借力将信息传播开来。佩西布里奇解释道:“巫术与印刷业变革息息相关,”其中很多作品都可以在大英博物馆的展览上看到,包括由丢勒学生汉斯·巴尔东·格里恩(Hans Baldung Grien)于1510年创作的彩色木版画《女巫的安息日》(Witches’ Sabbath)。


《奇想集》(Los Caprichos)是戈雅于1799年开始创作的80幅荒诞古怪版画集,以女巫、小妖、魔鬼、怪物为载体进行讽刺。佩西布里奇说:“戈雅借巫术披露社会邪恶,他的版画实则关系社会万象:贪婪、战争、牧师腐败。”



同时,英格兰的艺术工作者都时兴描绘巫术的夸张场面。比如:瑞士出生的艺术家亨利·富塞利(Henry Fuseli)就描绘了麦克白第一次在荒野上见到三女巫的几个著名场景。




女巫从哪里来? 女巫从哪里来?