Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Covent Garden Night-Mare

The Royal Opera House Season Launch for 2019-2020 : nice and safe, revivals and new works at the Linbury.  There are a few good choices, but, like the BBC Proms, "things ain't what they used to be" On the plus side, it's a chance to save money ! So come up and see this etching - The Covent Garden Night-Mare  by Thomas Rowlandson in a colorized version of the original published 1784 . In 1782, Henry Fuseli the Swiss mystic based in Britain exhibited a painting titled The Night Mare  which caused a sensation : a woman in her undies lies stretched on a bed, possibly drugged, a demon astride her, a black stallion (symbol of dark desires) looking on.   Pretty explicit, but typical of Fuseli, who was a mystic, possibly deranged, and an icon of the Romantic (big R) sensibility with its taste for the macabre and subconscious.  Rowlandson is making a point.  Fuseli's semi naked woman is replaced by the politician Charles James Fox, naked, possibly drunk, a demon on his back, a more quizzical horse looking on.  Fox was a Whig, usually at odds with the mainstream, but the satire here isn't on his politics so much as his reputation as a roué, who hung out at Covent Garden, then the haunt of prostitutes, thieves and degenerates. The (first) Royal Opera House had been built nearly 50 years before, but Fox and his friends probably weren't that much into music.

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