The Three Witches by Henri Fuseli
[credit: Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783. The Kunsthaus Zürich.]
Henry Fuseli is one of the best known 18th-century artists to focus on supernatural and morose subjects, ranging from witches to nightmares to deaths and beyond. One of Fuseli's more striking works is The Three Witches, first shown in 1783. The three witches depicted are the famous trio from Macbeth, whose appearance inspired the character Banquo to call out: 'what are these so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, and yet are on't?'
Fuseli created several different versions of this work, including several studies in preparation for the finalized paintings. The above painting, in the collection of Kunsthaus Zürich is a finished painting rather than a study. Of particular note is the eerie Death’s-head Hawkmoth in the corner, whose skull-like markings fit in well with the tragic and fatal themes of the play.
Some other versions of The Three Witches are below. Which is your favorite?
[credit: Henry Fuseli, Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, ca. 1782. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Purchased with funds from The George R. and Patricia Geary Johnson British Art Acquisition Fund.]
[credit: Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection]
[credit: Henry Fuseli, Study for The Three Witches, 1783. Auckland Art Gallery]