The Nightmare

7:00 AM

Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781

"Last night I had her in bed with me—tossed my bedclothes hugger-mugger—wound my hot and tight-clasped hands about her—fused her body and soul together with my own—poured into her my spirit, breath and strength. Anyone who touches her now commits adultery and incest! She is mine, and I am hers. And have her I will.…" Fuseli might have spoken too soon in the quote from a letter to a friend. He, in fact, had not yet married Anna Landholdt, and this event took place after his proposal to her. The story continues that her family did not approve of Fuseli, and had her married to another man a week later

From his writing we can tell his possessive nature concerning Anna, and because of this some believe she is the back story to this piece. Looking at Fuseli's icon of horror, I see the evil in his work and the sexuality. The imp is set guarding his prey, and the dark horse (or 'mare' from 'nightmare') disturbingly observing the scene. The imp's position of protection leads me to believe that he is a representation of Fuseli according to the backstory, and refusing to let go of Anna as she lies not quite in a state of horror, but one of thrilling ecstasy. Fuseli would like to imagine her happiness with him and being his own, so inside her 'nightmare' she is displayed pleased with the actions bringing about the sexual aspect of Fuseli's vision. 


The woman's elongated figure and illuminated body brings out her emotions and makes Fuseli's composition appealing to look at and allows the viewer to enjoy and begin to understand the story. The light draping along her body and the bed contrasting the thick curtains makes the scene feel intimate, as if I am intruding on a private event.Then again, I also feel like the horse is interrupting as he takes away from the woman and imp, and adds more horror to the piece. All together Fuseli defined horror with The Nightmare when the piece was put out in 1782, and it would be a revolutionary piece in this way for artists.  


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