Ferdinand Hartmann

The Nightmare,

19th century, before 1842

oil on canvas


Christian Ferdinand Hartmann (Stuttgart 1774-1842 Dresden)

"The Nightmare"

19th Century, before 1842

oil on canvas

50 x 63 cm



After decades or more as a painting by an “unknown artist,” the attribution of this painting to Ferdinand Hartmann is a recent discovery by Dr. René Somberg of Dresden, who recognized similarities in style, subject/iconography, and size/format between this painting and Hartmann’s “Der Tod als Kinderräuber" ["Death as a Child Robber"] (oil on canvas, 50 x 65.5 cm) in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (Inv. Nr. 667).1  Those similarities include, among others, the general subject matter of the nightmarish intruder, the nearly identical bedside oil lamp, the partially nude sleeping woman (similar in style and composition), and the handling of the drapery of the woman’s bed clothes and bed sheets.  The Daulton Collection is grateful to Dr. Somberg for sharing his discovery.


As a young man, Ferdinand Hartmann studied medicine, but then turned to art.  After winning the Goethe Prize for painting in 1801, he moved to Dresden where he became a professor at the Dresden Kunstakademie in 1810.  Although most known for his neoclassical history paintings, Ferdinand Hartmann’s work sometimes featured the macabre, as also exemplified by his drawing “Death with a Host of Demons” at The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.2  Hartmann’s circle included a number of German intellectuals who were interested in the supernatural, such as Justinus Kerner (1786-1862), the German doctor, writer, and poet who is known for his interest in spiritualism, the occult, and somnambulism (and, in particular, his writings about Friederike Hauffe, the Seer of Prevorst, a subject who would later be of great interest to painter Gabriel von Max); as well as Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert (1780-1860), the German doctor, naturalist and mystic, who studied, among other things, mesmerism, clairvoyance, and dreams.  And Hartmann certainly would have been aware of Heinrich Füssli’s famous painting of 1781, “The Nightmare,” a version of which is held at the Goethe Museum in Frankfurt, and which circulated widely as an engraving from 1783.

(1)  https://swbexpo.bsz-bw.de/image/sgs?id=DF77853044590688871DBCBC727260AA&img=1&width=1000


(2)  https://www.crockerart.org/collections/european-art/artworks/recto-death-with-a-host-of-demons-nd

detail showing incubus:
another work in The Daulton Collection inspired by Füssli’s "The Nightmare":
Carl Probsthayn (Danish, 1770-1818), 
La Cochemar (The Nightmare), 
c. 1800,
The Daulton Collection
Jack Daulton
The Daulton Collection