Dream is one of Escher’s first woodcuts to showcase his creativity. Dream is seen as a turning point from a period of roughly thirteen years in which Escher’s output was nearly entirely Italian cityscapes and landscapes. But after Dream, nearly all of Escher’s works stem from his imagination. The Escher aficionado knows it took about five years for this statement to come true, but still Dream stands as an obvious marker of Escher’s desire to create unseen worlds. In fact, Escher would later refer to his Italian period, particularly the Rome at Night woodcuts, as “finger exercises” - the time in which he mastered his techniques.
The church is inspired by a church in Ravello that was the subject of a woodcut in 1932. The bishop’s sarcophagus is from the Vatican tombs. And the praying mantis just happened to perch on Escher’s leg as he sat on an Italian hillside drawing. Escher gives us a view of the starry sky to invoke a dreamy state, a state where a mantis can be much larger than reality. And where better should it stand than on a stone bishop. Mantis Religiosa indeed.
This drawing in Pentedattilo is the first sketch of the praying mantis.
This church in Ravello woodcut was created in 1932
The final work was done in 1935.