Being in the grips of a nightmare is a common occurrence that we can all relate to, but we may never experience one exactly as a particular artist depicts it. Here Fuseli conjures up a terrifying image filled with mystery and panic, yet with a vague and disturbing familiarity. It suggests the way the woman feels in the grip of a demonic nightmare, not what she sees. The Nightmare was reproduced as an engraving; a copy hung in Sigmund Freud's apartment in Vienna in the 1920s.
Artist Henry Fuseli
Swiss, 1741-1825
Title
  • The Nightmare
Date 1781
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 40 × 49 7/8 inches (101.6 × 126.7 cm)
Framed: 47 5/8 × 58 × 3 1/2 inches (121 × 147.3 × 8.9 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Bert L. Smokler and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman
Accession Number 55.5.A
Department European Painting
On View Era of Revolution S331, Level 3 (see map)
until ca. 1845, Collection Sir Brooke Boothby (1744-1824) (Ashbourne Hall, Derbyshire, England).
by 1879, Collection H. Haskett Smith Troweswell, Goudhurst,England);
May 9 1896, auction, lot 78, Viscount Eversley and other collections, Christie's (London, England).
collection Earl of Harrowby (Stafford, England).
by November 1947, dealer, Roland, Browse and Delbanco (London, England);
1950-1955, dealer, Durlacher Bros. (New York, New York, USA);
1955-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Royal Academy (exhibition). London, 1782, no. 64.

Darwin, E. The Botanic Garden Containing the Loves of the Plants, a poem with Philosophic Notes. London, 1789, Canto III, II, pp. 51-56.

Royal Academy (exhibition). London, 1879, no. 15. [lent by H. Haskett Smith]

Catalogue of the Valuable Collection of Ancient and Modern Pictures of the Right Hon. Viscount Eversley, Deceased; also the Celebrated Haskett Smith Collection of the Works of George Morland; also the Thomson Bonar Collection of Family Portraits, Formerly at Camden House, Chislehurst; and other Fine Works by F. Guardi and of the Early English School. Sales cat., Christie, Manson & Woods, London, May, 9, 1896, p. 16, no. 78.

Gurlitt, C. Die Deutsche Kunst im 19 Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1907, vol. 2, p. 48 (repro.).

Michel, W. Das Teuflische und Groteske in der Kunst seit 1800. Munich, 1911, p. 42, no. 24.

Gurlitt, C. Die Deutsche Kunst seit 1800. Berlin, 1924, pp. 32, 39.

Federmann, Johann. Heinrich Füssli: Dichter und Maler, 1741-1825. Leipzig, ca. 1927, pp. 51-52, 169, no. 7.

Klingender, F.D. Hogarth and English Caricature. London, 1945, p. 16 (figs. 26, 37). [repro. the Harrowby and not the DIA version]

Roland, Browse and Delbanco. Paintings and Drawings by Henry Fuseli. London, 1948, p. 6, no. 25 (pl. 17).

Roland, Browse and Delbanco. Aspects of British Romanticism. London, 1949, p. 4, no. 9.

Ganz, Paul. The Drawings of Henry Fuseli. New York, 1949, pp. 65-66 (pl. 38).

Apollo 51 (March 1950:) p. 61 (repro.).

Art Digest. (Feb. 1, 1953): p. 15 (repro.).

Praz, M. "Painter Extraordinary to the Devil." Art News 51 (Jan. 1953): pp. 32ff (repro.).

Romanticism in Eighteenth Century England. Durlacher Brothers. New York, 1953, cat. 8.

Richardson, Edgar P. "The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli." Bulletin of the DIA 34, 1 (1954-55): pp 2-3 (ill.).

Comstock, Helen. "Fuseli's Nightmare." Connoisseur CXXXVI, 549 (December 1955): p. 229.

Antal, F. Fuseli Studies. London, 1956.

The Century of Mozart. William Rockhill Nelson Gallery. Kansas City, 1956, no. 36.

Canady, J. Mainstreams of Modern Art. New York, 1959, p. 253 (fig. 296).

Romantic Paintings, Romantic Prints. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. Columbus,1963, no. 15.

Janson, H.W. "Fuseli's Nightmare." Arts and Sciences II, 1 (Spring 1963): pp. 22-28.

The Romantic Era. John Herron Art Institute. Indianapolis, 1965, no. 22 (repro.).

Antin, D. "Fuseli, Blake Palmer." The Grand Eccentrics. New York, 1966, pp. 109-127.

Selections from the Permanent Collection. Vassar College Art Gallery. Poughkkeepsie, NY, 1967, p 24 (ill.).

Broughton, Roger J. "Sleep Disorders: Disorders of Arousal?" Science 159 (March 1968): pp. 1070-1078 (fig. 1).

Romantic Art in Britain: Paintings and Drawings 1760-1860. Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1968, no. 68, p. 124. [cat. entry by Fred Cummings]

Art in America 56, 1 (1968): p. 84 (repro.).

Mind Alive 1, 11 (1968): p. 292 (repro.).

Charatan, Fred B. et al. "Fuseli's Nightmare." Journal of the American Medical Association 209, no. 9 (September 1, 1969): p. 1368.

Schenck, M.D. "Henry Fuseli, Nightmare and Sleep Paralysis." Journal of the American Medical Association 207, 4 (1969): pp. 725-726 (cover ill.).

The World of Turner 1775-1851. New York, 1969, pp 30-31 (ill.).

Johann Heinrich Fuseli: 1741-1825. Kunsthaus. Zurich, 1969, p. 25, cat. 25.

Bulletin of the DIA. 1971, p. 152.

Kalman, H. "Fuseli, Pope and the Nightmare." Pantheon 29, 3 (May-June 1971): pp. 226-236 (repro.).

Horizon 14 (Summer 1972): pp. 88-89 (repro.).

Mayoux, J. Peinture Anglais. Geneva, 1972, p. 176 (repro.).

Mcfarland, P. Moments in Literature. Boston, 1972, pp. 32, 40 (repro.).

Tomory, P.A. The Life and Art of Henry Fuseli. London, 1972.

Allentuck, M. "Henry Fuseli's 'Nightmare': Eroticism or Pornography?" Woman as Sex Object: Studies in Erotic Art, 1730-1970. New York, 1972, pp. 33-41.

Schiff, G. Johann Heinrich Fussli: Catalogue Raisonné. Zurich: 1972.

Powell, N. Fuseli: The Nightmare. New York, 1973, pp. 5, 61, 74, 76, (col. pl and recto and verso ill.).

Schiff, G. Johann Heinrich Fuessli: 1741-1825, 2 vols. Zurich, 1973, no. 757.

Henry Fuseli. Tate Gallery. London, Feb 19-March 31, 1975, no. 159, p. 2 (repro.).

Spencer, H. The Image Maker. New York, 1975, p. 595 (fig. 454).

Johann Heinrich Fuseli. Petit Palais. Paris, 1975, no. 162 (col. cover ill. and recto and verso ill.).

Davidson, M. B. The Horizon History of the World in 1776. New York, 1975, p. 296 (repro.).

Mayoux, J. English Painting from Hogarth to the Pre-Raphaelites. Geneva, 1975, p. 176 (repro.).

Kiessling, N. The Incubus in English Literature. Washington, 1977 (frontispiece).


Schiff, G. and P. Viotto. L'Opera completa di Fussli. Milan, 1977.

Surrealism in Perspective. Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1979, p. 14 (fig. 10). [cat. entry by Lawrence, M.G.]

Delima Greene, A. Romanticism and Neoclassicism. New York, 1980, p. 7 (repro.).

Weinglass, D.H. "Johann Heinrich Fussli: 1741-1825." Art Bulletin LXII, 4 (December 1980): pp. 665-669.

Gleitman, H. Basic Psychology. New York, 1981.

Sekai No Bijutsu. Higusho/Genso 9, Tokyo, 1982, p. 74 (repro.).

Hufford, D.J. The Terror that Comes in the Night. Philadelphia, 1982, pp. 143, 145, 147, 164-65, 229, 249.

Feingold, Lawrence. "Fuseli, Another Nightmare: The Night-hag Visiting Lapland Witches." Metropolitan Museum Journal 17 (1982): pp. 49-61.

Cutter, F. Art and the Wish to Die. Chicago, 1983, p. 44 (repro.).

Balthus. Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, 1983-1984, p. 119, (fig. 117). ["The Nightmare" as compared to Balthus painting, cat. 32, cat. entry by Sabine Rewald]

Fingesten, Peter. "Delimitating the Concept of the Grotesque." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 42 (Summer 1984): pp. 419-426 (fig. 3).

Sandoz Bulletin 21, 73 (1985): p. 24 (repro.).

Lubin, D. M. The Act of Portrayal: Eakins, Sergent, James. New Haven, 1985, p. 64 (fig. 13).

Paley, Morton D. The Apocalyptic Sublime. New Haven, 1986, no. 4.

Yoshikawa, I., et al. The Louvre and Art in Paris, Vol. 1. Tokyo, 1986, no. 463.

Chappell, M. L. "Fuseli and the ‘Judicious Adoption’of the Antique in the 'Nightmare'." Burlington Magazine 128, 999 (June 1986): pp. 420-422 (fig. 37).

Gmelin, H.G. Birke, A. M., and K. Kluxen, eds. Die hannoverschen Hofmaler Ziesenis und Ramberg und ihre kunstlerischen Beziehungen zu Grossbritannien. Hannover, 1986, p. 188.

Russo, Kathleen. Eros in the Mind's Eye. Westport, 1986, pp. 38-48 (pl. 15).

King-Hele, Desmond. Erasmus Darwin and the Romantic Poets. Macmillon Press 1986, pp. 39-40, 132 (fig. 11).

Kerman, Joseph. Listen. New York, 1987, p. 235.

Boime, Albert. Art in an Age of Revolution: 1750-1800, A Social History of Modern Art, Vol. I. Chicago, 1987, p. 278 (repro.).

Eitner, L. An Outline of 19th Century European Painting from David Through Cézanne. New York, 1987, 2 vols., vol. 1, p. 82, vol. 2, p. 41 (pl. 72). [Revised edition of 2002]

Knudsen, V. Johann Heinrich Fuessli Tegninger. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 1988, p. 13 (fig. 2).

Bhattacharya-Stettler, Therese. Nox Mentis: The Representation of Madness in 19th Century Art. Bern, 1989, p. 164 (fig. 147).

Masterpieces from The Detroit Institute of Arts. Bunkamara Museum of Art. Tokyo, 1989, pp. 78, 215, cat. 46 (repro.).

Wedding, Danny. Behavior and Medicine. 1990, pp. 429-430 (repro.).

Fleming, William. Concerts of the Arts: Their Interplay and Modes of Relationship. Pensacola, 1990, pp. 198-199 (fig. 90).

Moffitt, John F. "Malleus Maleficarum: A Literary Context for Fuseli's Nightmare." Gazette Des Beaux-Arts 115, 6 (May-June 1990): pp. 242-248 (fig. 1).

Visionaere Schweiz. Kunsthaus. Zurich, 1991-1992, pp. 33-36 (repro.). [exhibition organized by Zurich Kunsthaus]

Brenson, Michael. "Henry Fuseli's Images of Power and Lust." The Living Arts, The New York Times Friday, Jan 4, 1991 pp. B1, B4.

Christopher, James and George Wittet. Modern Western Civilization. Toronto, 1991, p. 147 (repro.).

The Romantic Spirit in German Art 1790-1990. Haus der Kunst. Munich, 1995, p. 238, cat. 46.

Hofmann, W. transl. from German by M. Couffon. Une époque en rupture 1750-1830. Paris, 1995, p. 184 (fig. 151).

Sotheby's Art at Auction: The Art Market Review 1994-95. London, 1995, pp. 56-57 (repro.).

Donald, Diana. The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III. New Haven, 1996, pp. 69-71 (fig. 73, 74, 75, 76). [related]

Becker, Christoph, & Claudia Hattendorff. Johann Heinrich Füssli : Das Verlorene Paradies. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, 1997-1998, pp.132-137, cat. 166 (repro.).

Myrone, M. "The Sublime as Spectacle: The Transformation of Ideal Art at Somerset House." Art on the Line: the Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836. New Haven, 2001, p. 8, 83, 88, (repro., fig. 53).

Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney. Yale Center for British Art. New Haven, 2001-2002, pp.131-133, cat. 34 (repro.). [entry by M. Warner]

ten'Dousschate Chu, P. Nineteenth-Century European Art. New York, 2003, p. 79 (fig. 3-7).

Eco, U., ed., transl. by A. McEwen. History of Beauty. New York, 2004, p. 289 (ill.). [based on Italian CD-Rom "Bellezza. Storia di un'idea dell'Occidente" by Motta On Line, 2002; also printed in Italian Storia della Bellezza, Turin, 2002, p. 289]

Harris, James C. "The Nightmare." Archives of General Psychiatry 61, 5 (May 2004): pp. 429, 439-440. [mention of painting and photo]

Lentzsch, F. C. Becker, C. Klemm, M. Myrone and B. von Waldkirch. Füssli, The Wild Swiss. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus. Zurich, 2005-06, pp. 44, 58, 137-142, 189-90, 193, 199-201, 233, 268, 269. [exh. repackaged for London, Tate Britain, "Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination." 2006]

Be, V. "Füssli, Suisse et sauvage." Connaissance des arts 632 (Nov. 2005): p.46.

Myrone, M. Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art 1750-1810. New Haven, 2005, p. 128-130 (repro., fig. 135).

Giorgi, R. S. Zuffi, ed., trans. from Italian by R. M. Giammanco Frongia Angels and Demons in Art, series "A Guide to Imagery." Los Angeles, 2005, p. 110 (repro.).

Pepper, T. "The Lure of the Gothic." Newsweek (Feb. 20, 2006): pp. 56-57. [see curatorial files for newspaper articles about Tate Britain exhibition]

Dillon, B. "Tomb Raiders." Modern Painters (Feb. 2006): pp. 60ff.

Stone, K. "The incubus in the collections." University of Melbourne Collections 3 (Dec 2008): pp. 42-47 (repro.).