Sunday, 11 August 2013

A Financial Nightmare

The city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy this Summer, and there has been much speculation whether it will be decided to auction off pieces of art from the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to alleviate the city's debt of $18 billion. Although it appears to be unclear whether parts of the collection can be sold at all, Christie's has recently been hired to appraise the collection.

One of the paintings from the DIA's collection is Fuseli's Nightmare, that has been the subject of a few posts here, and that I myself got to see at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris earlier this year. It's hardly on the top ten list of art that the institute owns, as it includes several famous pieces by e.g. Tintoretto, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein, Titian, Bruegel, Rembrandt, and Degas, but it is certainly a piece of art that has played an important role in art and cultural history for over 200 years, including in cinema, as was one of the themes of the L'ange du Bizarre exhibition at Orsay (and formerly at the Schwarze Romantik exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt), so it would be a shame to see it along with other important pieces sold off to private collectors.


Nicolas Barbano said...

A scene in James Whale's "Frankenstein" (1931) is based on this painting and has Karloff's monster enter Elizabeth's chamber. David J. Skal's documentary "The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster" (2002) notes that there's no way the monster could even know whose house it is, but that plot hole fades away if in the spirit of Fuseli's painting we perceive the scene as Elizabeth's nightmare. Anyway, the painting clearly belongs on a wall in my bedroom!

Niels K. Petersen said...

Christopher Frayling and Martin Myrone wrote a short essay on The Nightmare in Modern Culture for the catalogue from Tate's 2006 exhibition Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination, in which they claim that the sequence in the novel 'itself may have been based on a recollection of Fuseli's painting or a print of it. Shelley's description of the chilling scene of the creature fulfilling his prophecy ('I shall be with you on your wedding-night') directly echoes that image.'

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