Happy Halloween! Italian artist Salvator Rosa explored the theme of witches in poetry and images like this set of four tondi (round format) showing witchy activity at different times of day. More typically associated with Renaissance art in Northern Europe, especially Germany, witches and demons also fascinated Italian artists. The tondo, typically painted on panel,was a popular format in the 15th century, but rarer in the 17th, and it is an especially interesting format for visual explorations of black magic.

Halloween, which is derived from “All Hallows’ Eve,” was the day of vigil when Christians would pray and fast in preparation for the feast of All Saints’ Day on 1 November. Derived “hallowed,” meaning holy or sanctified, The contraction Hallowe’en is now more commonly associated with costumes, pumpkins, tricks, and treats.

Salvator Rosa, Four Scene with Witches: Morning, Day, Evening, Night, oil on canvas, 1645-1649. Cleveland Museum of Art: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.

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