More than 200% visitors compared to usual figures: the exhibition History(ies) of witchcraft at the Museum of Art, History and Archeology of Évreux is already an undeniable success. For Camille Gross, curator, it must be said that “the subject is quite fascinating, quite mysterious and still questions us today”. With her team, the young woman worked for two years on the creation of this exhibition for which the museum, starting from a few works from its collections, benefited from a hundred loans from forty cultural establishments in France, such as three satyrical prints and Nightmares by Francisco de Goya.
An exhibition that seeks to answer two questions by focusing on stories of local witchcraft: what have been the artistic representations of the figure of the witch, a source of inspiration for several millennia, and why is it still so present today? in our imagination? The chronological journey begins in Antiquity, “a time when magic and witchcraft practices are not distinguished and where all strata of society are concerned”, with small fragments found during archaeological excavations in a district of Évreux. , “resulting from tablets on which were inscribed kinds of curses and which were then buried”.
The visit continues in the Middle Ages, while a “distinction between good and bad magic takes place at the end of this period. It is also a period when we will begin to condemn”, deciphers Camille Gross, who gives as an example a popular procession from Évreux conducive to excesses “and finally prohibited in the name of demonic influences”.
The old witch and the matchmaker
Then comes a part dedicated to the great witch hunts. The museum exhibits a dozen treatises on demonology there, which were very popular until the end of the 17th century. Without forgetting some striking examples of the iconography which then developed around the figure of the witch, “paintings and objects showing this figure opening the abyss towards hell, with two figures: the old witch and the young matchmaker perverting the good Christians”. Local example, at the end of this period, the case of the possessed of a convent of Louviers “will lead to a great trial and finally update cases of morals behind the accusations of witchcraft”.
Moment of change, in the 18th century, “with the realization that behind the accusations of witchcraft, there is something else” and the decriminalization of witchcraft. “All of a sudden, we move into the realm of belief and we even start laughing at such accusations, for example in literature.”
This end of the journey presents several visions of artists showing, despite the evolution of mentalities, the still great interest in the figure of the witch, as well as the avant-garde figures and feminist struggles who from the beginning of the 20th century reclaim the character as an object of struggle.
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The exhibition on witchcraft bewitches Evreux and all of Normandy!
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