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Art and Images in Psychiatry
May 2004

The Nightmare

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2004 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2004

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004;61(5):439-440. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.61.5.439

When Max Eastman visited Sigmund Freud's apartment at Berggasse 19,Vienna, Austria, in 1926, he noticed a print of John Henry Fuseli's (1741-1825) The Nightmare hanging on the wall next to Rembrandt vanRijn's The Anatomy Lesson.1(p15) Freud did not refer to Fuseli's most famous painting in his writing,but his colleague Ernest Jones chose another version of it as the frontispieceof his book On the Nightmare,2 ascholarly study of the origins and significance of the nightmare theme. However,the nightmare did not fit easily into Freud's model of dreams as wish fulfillments.Initially he proposed that nightmares represent superego wishes for punishment;later he suggested that traumatic nightmares represent a repetition compulsion.3(p41) Fuseli's painting provides an opportunityto reexamine how the meaning of the word nightmare hasevolved.