Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare

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In 1781 Henry Fuseli’s oil on canvas piece, The Nightmare, was put on display at the annual Royal Academy exhibition in London. Many of the spectators were shocked and intrigued by how sexual and morbid the painting was. Fuseli’s painting stood out amongst the artwork, because many of the other artworks were of portraits, landscape paintings, or scenes illustrating literature and history. This painting is Fuseli’s most famous works, and it is because of this art piece that Fuseli’s was able to make a name as an artist, and established his reputation as a painter of the weird, the supernatural, and the shocking. When the painting was first put on display it was considered to be quite erotic and horrifying. Today it is still seen as so. Many…show more content…
The way Fuseli arranged each major figure within the composition of the work helps lead the viewer to understand that the woman is suffering from sleep paralysis. The painting consists of a sleeping woman, an incubus, and a horse. The woman lies sprawled out on the bed, with her upper body on the edge to where her head hangs over it, and some people believe that sleeping in this position lead to having nightmares. The way the woman is laying make herself vulnerable to the creature that lies upon her. The demonic creature that is sitting on the woman’s chest is an incubus. In the painting Fuseli defines an incubus both literally and figuratively. The first definition of an incubus is that it is an evil demon or…show more content…
By being shrouded in white, the color that represents pureness, the sleeping woman gives a sense of innocents. The drapes behind the woman are blood red, which is usually associated with lust and passion. These colors next to one another create a high contrast between the vulnerable woman and the evil that surrounds her. The high contrast of the woman’s white gown against the darkness of the drapes and shadows creates a glowing effect on the woman. This effect almost separates the woman from the dark world around her. The woman’s gown creates a boundary between the woman, which is reality, and the incubus and horse, which are just a part of her dream. The use of chiaroscuro, as well as the strong contrast between values, creates uncertainty and drama within the painting. Together the contrasting colors and values create an ominous feeling to the

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