John Anster Fitzgerald
British, 1823 - 1906
Date: circa 1857-8
This - possibly the first - version of the dreaming girl is full of incident.The girl writhes in anguish on her bed, the wreath that she wears in the background sequence having fallen twisted on her pillow. Her ghostly figure is shown enacting three episodes of gathering menace among a band of revellers, in 17th century costume, some of whom are masked. First she is shown under a full moon, embracing a lover; the second episode shows her being waylaid by two masked figures with swords; lastly she turns away from a kneeling man, while another man with a sword and a masked woman flee away to the left. Lying on her bed, she has changed from the flimsy white costume of her ghostly apparition into a heavily embroidered Turkish jacket and voluminous striped silk sash of brilliant colours which falls on to the bed with the fringe reaching the floor, looking like a wound with a pool of blood running down. Around her bed goblins offer drinks from a steaming bowl, the drinks are red ad yellow, matching the liquid in two medicine bottles on the table by the bed. A goblin hovering over her prone figure bows obsequiously. A goblin band, barely indicated in thin paint, plays by the bed. That the sleep was drugged cannot be in doubt. In successive versions Fitzgerald was to tone down the overt signs of drug-induced hallucination.
The painting's subject is chillingly mirrored in the description by Oswald Doughty in his biography of the death of Elizabeth Siddal, the wife of the English Pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
'Returning at half past eleven, Rossetti, on entering his wife's room found her lying in bed unconscious and breathing heavily. The room reeked of laudanum and on the small table by her bedside stood an empty Laudanum phial... She lay as if sleeping save for her cold pallid face and strangled breathing.
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