Henry Fuseli. Titania, Bottom and the Fairies (1793-4)

Oil on canvas, 67 x 53 inches. Kunsthaus, Zurich.

The exhibition catalog of the Tate Gallery, Henry Fuseli, entitles this painting Titania Awakes, Surrounded by Attendant Fairies, Clinging Rapturously to Bottom, Still Wearing the Ass's Head; this title is probably erroneous, however, and Tomory is correct when he calls it simply Titania, Bottom and the Fairies. In the play when Titania awakes, both Oberon and Puck are present, and almost immediately Oberon commands Puck to remove the spell and the ass's head from Bottom. Although Puck appears in the upper right-hand corner, Oberon is absent and Bottom should still be sleeping. The painting is, therefore, probably another version of Titania and Bottom, executed a few years later than the original.

In this later version the fairies wear contemporary dresses, and, besides Peaseblossom scratching Bottom's ears and Cobweb, in armor, killing the bee, we find various fairies making music, in accord with Titania's question in Act IV, scene i, "Wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love?" This version is more sensuous than the earlier one, with a clearly enamoured, even "rapturous," Titania stroking an almost naked and decidedly virile lover.