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
  • The Nightmare
Date 1781
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 40 1/16 × 50 1/16 × 13/16 inches (101.7 × 127.1 × 2.1 cm)
Framed: 47 5/8 inches × 58 inches × 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)
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