The Nightmare (1781) by Johann Heinrich Fussli

The Nightmare - Johann Heinrich Fussli - 1781

All Artwork Images

Artwork Information

TitleThe Nightmare
ArtistJohann Heinrich Fussli
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions101 x 127 cm
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationDetroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, US

About The Nightmare

“The Nightmare” is an oil on canvas painting created by the artist Johann Heinrich Fussli in 1781. The artwork is a quintessential example of the Romanticism movement, and it measures 101 by 127 centimeters. As a symbolic painting, it resides at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan, United States, and is known for its evocative depiction of themes and emotions that transcend the literal scene portrayed.

The artwork features a dramatic and dark scene with a sharp contrast between light and shadow, deepening the sense of terror and unease. It depicts a sleeping woman lying on her back across a bed with her head hanging off the edge, rendering her in a state of vulnerability. Her body is draped in white, partially covered by a rich-colored blanket, and the lifelessness of her pose suggests a deep unconscious state. Atop her is an ominous, goblin-like creature sitting on her chest, personifying the incubus, a demon believed in folklore to prey upon sleeping women. This figure stares outwards, almost engaging with the viewer, adding to the disconcerting atmosphere of the composition. Behind this scene, a shadowy, ghostly horse with flaming eyes emerges from the dark backdrop, its presence suggesting the intrusion of a nightmare into the physical world. The elements in the painting—its character, the incubus, the spectral horse, the limp posture of the woman—combine to create an embodiment of the terror experienced in nightmares, rooted in the exploration of the subconscious and unseen forces that pervades Romantic art.

Other Artwork from Johann Heinrich Fussli

More Romanticism Artwork

Scroll to Top