Fantasy of superstitions

Naive belief in supernatural forces has been a common inspiration for fantastic imagery. Superstitions often mix crude, inaccurate tales about demons and devils with the spice of sex and pornography. The stirrings of the lower belly rise to stimulate the imaginings of the mind to create popular fantasy art. Any unexplained event is quickly transformed by folk culture into the machinations of extraordinary forces which are then portrayed as devils, witches, demons, ghosts, vampires and other imaginary beings. The intention of all such inventions is to frighten and to obtain power over the innocent, to capture and fire their imaginations.

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The young sorceress Antoine Wiertz, 1850

The detail (overleaf) and the full painting (right) reveal the opportunities for eroticism in paintings of the supernatural. The artist achieves his effects by skilfully depicting details and by adding disturbing qualities which make us pause and ask questions. What is the old woman teaching the young nude girl to do? Are the other heads those of real observers, voyeurs of pornography, or spirits to help in the ceremony?

Voluptuous flesh caught in an erotic pose combines with the black, cloaked, ancient crone to suggest evil and secret rituals.

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