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Grinstein, A. (1951). A Psychoanalytic Study of Schwind's “The Dream of a Prisoner”. Am. Imago, 8(1):65-91.

(1951). American Imago, 8(1):65-91

A Psychoanalytic Study of Schwind's “The Dream of a Prisoner”

Alexander Grinstein, M.D.

In every edition of Freud's A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis there may be found a reproduction of a painting (Figure 1.) by a Viennese artist, Moritz von Schwind, (1804-1871) entitled The Dream of the Prisoner. 1) The fact that it was just this painting rather than any number of others that Freud selected strikes one as being particularly significant, and is especially so since there are so few pictorial illustrations in Freud's works, the only others being, in fact, the Moses of Michelangelo, some of the works of Leonardo da Vinci, and a reproduction of a cartoon from a Hungarian paper found in some editions of The Interpretation of Dreams.

This work of art, now at the Schack Gallerie in Munich, belongs to the period of German Romanticism and was painted in 1836. 2) On examination, this painting 3) reveals a man in the foreground, reclining on a blanket on the floor of a prison. His back and his neck are resting on a pile of straw. Beside him, near the straw, stands a tall pitcher. The prisoner's arms are crossed in front of his chest, and his left leg is crossed over his right just below the knee. His whole face is illuminated by a ray of sunlight streaming in from a grated window in the upper right of the painting. His eyes are open and he is looking upward toward the window at a vision which he sees before him. In the center of the ray of sunlight, and hence in virtually the center of the picture there is a figure of a woman, who seems to be suspended in space. She has bare feet, long flowing robes, and long hair streaming behind her as she seems to drift up and outward toward the window in the direction of which she is facing.

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