The Bad Dream - Ruth Munby

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

Ruth Munby

I made some sketches in preparation for making a work involving the Commedia dell'Arte then on the way out of the gallery I spotted a sculpture by Messerschmidt called "The Bad Smell". I knew of his work and that he may have suffered from a psychiatric disorder. His extreme contorted heads look to me as though he lived in a world of torment from which he found little respite.
I then had the idea of placing him in the context of a bad dream rather than a bad smell featuring some characters wearing Commedia dell'Arte masks.
I have long had a fascination with Punch and Judy and the menacing overtones evoked. I found online two images of puppets in the V&A collection, one who looks like Punch and the other of Mother Shipton although the latter could be male or female. I decided to make the characters surrounding the tortured sleeper larger than life.
My usual way of working is to make some rough sketches then make them into a collage then play around until I am happy with the composition, then prepare a tonal version before deciding on the colours.
Although I am reasonably satisfied with the result were it not for the approaching deadline I would rework the central character to show more of the sense of agonising tension Messerschmidt portrays.

The Bad Dream - Ruth Munby

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:


Great Britain

19th century


Carved and painted wood with sewn and aplique fabric and trimmings

V&A collection reference number(s):

Exhibition Guide

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