While walking through the galleries of Tate Britain, your eyes may be drawn to this painting, which at first glance may appear as yet another florid 18th-century ode to Shakespeare. But take a closer look, and you will find that the devil is in the details—quite literally.
This sinister, gothic masterpiece by the Swiss-born artist Henry Fuseli is a unique portrayal of a Shakespearean scene (A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act IV Scene 1) haunted by terrifying demonic entities. The character of Nick Bottom, a peasant, has had his head transformed into that of a donkey by a mischievous woodland sprite, Puck, a servant of the faerie king Oberon. Oberon’s wife, Titania, Queen of the Faeries, has also been tricked by a love potion which makes her fall madly in love with the first thing she sees, which is the donkey-headed Bottom.
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