Scenes of the occult were rare, though not unknown, in 17th- century Italy. During his years in Florence (1640-9) Rosa produced a number of scenes of witchcraft, of which this (signed) painting is the most ambitious surviving example. It may be the painting referred to in a letter by Rosa of 1666 as having been painted twenty years earlier and one of his finest, and it is probably contemporary with one of Rosa's poems entitled 'The Witch'.Spells are cast in the centre, below a man hanged from a withered tree. The brightly illuminated foreground is contrasted with the nocturnal landscape behind.
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