Dream is Escher’s trip into surrealism. 1935 was a year of major transition for Escher. He left Italy after living there for 11 years with his family. The changing politics forced Escher to head back home, and perhaps forced Escher from being a master of Italian cityscapes and landscapes to a slave of his imagination.
The mantis, however, had no idea about all these possibilities. It merely found itself a nice place to perch on Escher’s leg as Escher sat on an Italian hillside sketching. Escher documents in his diary that the mantis stayed long enough for him to complete a detailed drawing of him...a not so still life, if you will.
The oversized mantis has a Daliesque quality to it. And I appreciate the subtle humor of a praying mantis on the sarcophagus of a bishop. The background is inspired by the earlier woodcut of Porta Maria dell’Ospidale - a church in Ravello.
Here are Escher’s words:
“The print Dream combines three distinct elements: first the architecture, a reminiscence of a curious little twelfth-century church in southern Italy. It consisted of loose cross vaults under on overhanging rock. Secondly, the marble sarcophagus with the recumbent figure of a bishop, which l saw in the crypt at Saint Peter’s in Rome. And thirdly, an insect common in southern Italy, a praying mantis. It sat down on the edge of my drawing folder, while l was sketching somewhere in Sicily, long enough to be pictured in detail. My only intention was to suggest an impression of three-dimensionality, of endless depth.”