Monday, November 14, 2011

Artworks I'd Steal: Nightmare

I saw Gothic ages ago and there's a scene that re-creates the painting. I think that the actual painting is also displayed in the house were the film is set. It's about as Gothic as you can get, it has everything the genre calls for: horror, mystery, fear of the unknown (or maybe just your subconscious) and lots and lots of sexual tension.

The nightmare is not the horse and it's not called nightmare because of any connection with female horses. The Mare is a goblin-like creature that will sit on people's chest while they sleep, which causes bad dreams. But the horse is also a nod to folklore, there were tales of people who were visited by horselike spirits. It may be just the Mare's horse, though.

I wonder about the caraffe on the nightstand. In the first version of the painting there's a jar and a small bottle. So what's in there, exactly? It could be just water, but I'm thinking along the lines of laudanum, which was incredibly popular at the time and often used as a sleeping aid.

The reason why I like this painting so much is that I suffer from sleep paralysis, which probably inspired the folktales of Mares, Incubi and Succubi (not to mention alien abduction). For a very long time, I did not know what was going on, until I read about it in Carl Sagan's brilliant book The Demon Haunted World. So I can relate to all the people who had to come up with some explanation why they woke up in the middle of the night, totally paralysed and maybe hearing voices or seeing creepy stuff in the corner of their eye.

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