The art of love: Henry Fuseli
Where sex and fear meet
Saturday 20 September 2008
Henry Fuseli: 'The Nightmare', 1781, Detroit Institute of the Arts
Swathed in the most clinging of white shifts, a woman lies flopped, voluptuous, unconscious exposed full length along the bed and across the picture. Our eyes can trace her soft, swelling, undulating form from the tip of her toe to the tip of her finger. On her belly, half-materialising from shadow, squats a hideous, hunched, troll-like beast, an incubus. And plunging through the bed curtains, suddenly, with burning eyes, comes the ghostly head of a horse.
But who in Fuseli's Nightmare is the fantasy, and who is the fantasiser? The scene may look like Gothic going on Freud, illustrating how fears mix with desires. The sleeping woman is the consciousness at work. This dark monster of lust is a phantasm dreamt up by her restless, welcoming sex-mad mind.
Yet the incubus is more than a vision. It is an active creature, with a mental life of its own. It isn't actually doing anything. It's just sat on her, inert, like a monkey-ornament not performing a horrible act, but (which is worse) with some calm and horrible purpose. It turns its bug-eyes to meet the viewer's in a way that implies complicity. So this totally available woman may be the creature of its fantasy, and ours.
And that horse, bursting in like a visual scream, could be anyone's climactic cry.
Life & Style blogs
Three in every four British men will be overweight by 2030, says World Health Organisation
Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...