The nightmare by Fuseli was first on exhibition in 1782 at the Royal Academy of London and it continues to fascinate as much –if not more- to this day.
It is a magnificent oil on canvas painting .
The nightmare depicts a woman in the process of having a nightmare. She is on her back [in what some have described as a sexual position at the time the painting was first introduced] and is being tormented by an incubus that is sitting on her chest. In the background one also notices the head of a horse – another symbol for nightmares in that era. Perhaps what the viewed is captured by the most is the fact that the incubus is staring outward from the frame and the eyes of the horse are over dramatized.
Because of high interest in the painting Henry Fuseli is known to have made at least 3 versions and at that time there was even an engraving that circulated.
It is attributed to Thomas Burke and was created in 1783
A version of the painting was slightly adjusted as a satire for political reasons.
† Vampire Art
The Victorian mind was assaulted by the subliminal sensuality of the vampires in “Dracula” but in the ancient cultures we find 2 demonic entities who weren`t as subtle about the reason why they made their nocturnal visits.
Incubus and Succubus [by their latin names] were body-less demons that would materialize during the night to sexually assault the sleeping, to torture and sometimes kill them.
The nightmares were associated with anxiety and sexual repression. It was believed that in some cases it was nothing more what sexual fantasies taken to the extreme.
There creatures of the night would use their powers to paralyze the victims and sustain sexual relations with them against their will. Often those that resisted were killed.
Some claim that this demon didn`t have a sex and that it would change the form after each victim thus taking either the form of a male or a female.
It is believed that the woman [Succubus] was a demon essence that would take the form an extremely beautiful woman and seduce a wealthy and influential man and bare him a child. The baby would be a powerful demon but his human form could be sustained permanently.
Once the succubus gave birth she would entrust the demon-child to the father and it would be raised into the mansion as an orphan until his coming of age. At that point he would kill his father and take his place in the community.
In “Discoverie of Witchcraft” by Reginald Scot  these demons are associated with witches and the case of an incubus that feed on a young aristocratic maiden [the case was based on the testimony of the servant].
But not many dared to tell the story of such encounters because while the witch hunt was in progress confessing to having sexual affairs with a demon or with a devil brought a sure conviction.
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† Vampires in Ancient Cultures