Amulets against the «evil eye»

Amulets against the «evil eye»
1602. «Infanta Anna of Austria». Juan Pantoja de la Cruz © Convento de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid (Spain)

Amulets against the «evil eye»

V Welcome and bounding

 

The Spanish Diccionario de Autoridades (Authorities Dictionary) (1737) defines the «evil eye» as an «accident that is suffered and is said to be caused by the sight of someone, who has looked too hard or who has a vice, which more regularly happens to children because their blood is thinner». To ward off the Evil Eye people had trinkets or belts with coral objects, little crosses, agnusdei, wild boar’s teeth, badger claws, bells, higas and other black-amber figurines (all of them present in the portrait). These objects were used for the children of the House of Austria, especially since the time of Margarita, wife of Felipe III. 

Far from being considered a popular superstition, the Evil Eye was widely believed by medical professionals to be real (as Ruices de Fontecha recalls in his Diez privilegios para mujeres preñadas, 1606). They thought mostly affected newborns during lactation, which they defined as the act of «transmitting a malignant and pernicious quality through corrupt vapors and exhalations, or from the origins of its blood and seed» (f. 196v). [Jesús María Usunáriz Garayoa]