Penot’s Salon Witch, 1910

‘Depart pour le Sabbat’ (or ‘Aufbruch zum Hexensabbat’) was painted by the prolific French artist Albert-Joseph Pénot (1862–1930). On sexarte we are told that Pénot “exhibited successfully in the Paris Salons” and that he “was awarded with a honorable mention in 1903 and a third place medal in 1908.” The postcard, from which these images are taken, has the caption “Salon d’Hiver.” This was one of the famous art salons of Paris.

Numerous postcards were issues immediately before WWI with artwork by Pénot, photographically reproduced—like this one—from paintings he exhibited at the Parisian art salons. A few of these paintings/postcards seem to have used the same model as “Depart pour le Sabbat” (see here and here). Pénot found some success painting for postcard publishers, with numerous, less ambitious, paintings being reproduced in colour (including a set of seven ‘Études de nu’).

Note: the fall of the model’s hair suggests she is travelling rump-first (but with the broom travelling in the right direction; that is, from right-to-left); her pose suggests she is travelling face-first (but with the broom travelling in the wrong direction; that is, from left-to-right): all very confusing. The solution to this may be that Pénot is indebted to a sixteenth-century tradition among German artists of depicting witches with their hair flying in the opposite direction to the way they are travelling (see Jane Davidson The Witch in Northern European Art, 1470-1750 (Luca Verlag, 1987), p.18). Davidson does not explain this tradition. Perhaps it was to show how un-natural, inverted, or contrary to nature, the witch was in the minds of German artists.

6 Responses to “Penot’s Salon Witch, 1910”

  1. Snake Oil Baron Says:

    Perhaps the witch is meant to be traveling at low speed in comparison to the wind. But you are right that the effect looks odd – kind of like when motion is preformed in reverse but the film is reversed so that the motion looks like it is in the right direction but also looks “off” somehow.

    Or it could be that she is meant to be traveling in the conventional fashion but has turned back to see something that she has passed. When riding “sidesaddle” in this manner, and who wouldn’t given the attire, it might be easier to look to the left by turning around.

  2. Could it be that the witches are blown along on their brooms by an infernal wind? Such a wind would blow their hair in the direction of travel.

  3. She’s sitting still and the wind is blowing.

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  6. I think this is athe most awsome portraite I have seen in a while. love it

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