Play #81—Fuseli Paints The Nightmare

The play is set in the London studio of painter Henry Fuseli.  It is March of 1781, and he is preparing to paint what will come to be seen as his masterpiece—The Nightmare.
As the curtain rises, Fuseli is interviewing a young woman who may well serve as the model for what will eventually be the bedevilled, dreaming woman in the painting.  The prospective model’s name is Ivy Underling.

Fuseli: How old are you, Miss Underling?

Ivy: Seventeen, sir.

Fuseli (surprised): Is that all?  I took you for more.

Ivy (smiling wanly):  It’s the deprivation, sir.

Fuseli (Uncertain he heard properly): The deprivation?

Ivy (a bit flustered):  Oh you know, sir.  Doing without and all that.  It makes you old pretty quick.

Fuseli:  Oh.  Yes, I suppose it could.

Ivy (her voice tremulous):  What would I have to do if I model for you, sir?

Fuseli (expansive):  My dear young woman, it is simplicity itself!  First, you’ll be stretched out full-length on a divan—on your back.

Ivy (alarmed):  I won’t be in me altogether, will I sir?  I couldn’t do that!

Fuseli (momentarily confused):  Your altogether?  Oh, you mean naked!  No, no, of course not.

Ivy (smiling): That’s a relief then!

Fuseli (abstractly):  Yes.  Yes.  But you will have to put up with a rather large monkey sitting on your chest!

Ivy (horrified):  A monkey?  A real one?

Fuseli (irritated):  Yes of course a real one. Where am I going to get a stuffed monkey that big?

Ivy (tremulous): Will it be a tame one?

Fuseli (patiently):  Oh yes, it has to be.  Because I have to tie a twisted, grinning mask to its face.

Ivy (suspicious): Just what kind of a painting is this going to be anyhow?

Fuseli (offhand): A work of considerable genius, I imagine.

Ivy (shaken but curious): Does it have a title?

Fuseli (cheerfully):  I’m calling it The Nightmare.

Ivy (getting interested):  Because of the monkey with the evil face??

Fuseli (casually):  That, and because of the screaming horse with big popping white, sightless eyes that has thrust its hideous head through the curtains to stare at you while you are sleeping!!

Ivy (finally getting used to this):  A real horse?

Fuseli (annoyed): A real horse with white eyes as big as croquet balls??!!  Where would I find such an animal?  No, I expect I shall have to make him up!!  The monkey too, perhaps.

Ivy (picking up her cloak and slipping it on):  In that case, Mr. Fuseli, I think you’ll have very little difficulty making me up too!!  Now I’ll take my leave.

Fuseli (incredulous):  And miss your chance at immortality??

Ivy (putting on her bonnet):  If need be, sir, yes.  I suspect immortality just isn’t for me.  Good day to you, Sir!
[she leaves the studio]

Fuseli (watching her leave):  Young people today!  Who can understand them?