"the tortures the Inquisition visited upon suspected witches"
IIRC, the Inquisition, at least the Spanish Inquisition, wasn't very concerned with witches.
In Spain there simply wasn't a witch-craze comparable to the one raging in other parts of Europe, thanks in no small part to the indifference of the Inquisition. It was when the "punishment" of witches fell on the hands secular authorities that lots of women were killed.
Speaking of Vance, he included the following musings on art and artifacts in one of his novels:
"Silence was absolute, save for the purl of water under the hull. At night a pair of large moons cast a serene light through the foliage in a manner which Maihac found almost dreamlike in its effect. He said as much to Bariano, who responded with a condescending shrug. "I am surprised to find you so enthusiastic. It is, after all, a mere trick of nature." [...] "It is simply that your aesthetic judgments are amorphous. It is naive to detect beauty where none has been specifically intended. The subject is large. Often you will notice an agreeable aspect of nature, effected by random or mathematical processes. It may be serene and congenial, but it is the work of chance and lacks the human afflatus. There is no pulse of positive creativity to infuse it with true beauty.""