Titania and Bottom

7:00 AM

Fuseli, Titania and Bottom, 1790

Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.
 - A Midsummer Nights Dream, Act IV, Scene 1, 

As previously discussed, Henry Fuseli studied Shakespeare and many of his plays. This fascination drives from his amusement in the supernatural. Fuseli looks to paint scenes that give him more freedom to explore things like the contemporary dress that Queen Titania's fairies are wearing. In this piece, Oberon has cast a spell on the Queen which makes her fall in love with Bottom who's head is now that of an ass. Fuseli paints her desperately seductive as she tries to win Bottom's affection.

Here, Fuseli uses common Rococo techniques, such as the detail in the light. The fairies are wonderful, they are also wonderful at creeping me out. The baby fairy on the bottom right has a butterfly for a head and looks disconnected from the ones above who await orders from their queen. The fairy on the left holds the dwarf by a leash represents the young and beautiful conquering the old, and "the senses over the mind." These two characters reflect the play as a whole and mystery verses fact throughout the story. 
Leonardo da Vinci, Leda, 1506       
Fuesli brings this piece together quite well with influences from many other artists. He is known for having studied Leonardo da Vinci's work and paints Tatiana's seductive pose from da Vinci's, Leda. He uses the curve of the head to show her eyes locked on him as she whispers to him promising him anything he wishes. The smooth curves of the body draws the eye up her body through her hand in both pieces, but Titania and Bottom, Titania's hand is raised, which forms a stronger line and divides the canvass.

Henry Fuseli paints other scenes from this Shakespeare play, but this one is my favorite. It stands out to me because of the clash of styles, not in the style of painting so to speak, but the choices of clothing and different stories illustrated the fairies in a circle around Bottom and Tatiana. The dwarf-like fairies dispersed throughout creep me out and interest me. Yet the subject is so big and illuminated that if you weren't looking for them, you could miss the small details Fuseli can put in his imaginative, mystical scenes.

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