The Dream, 1910 by Henri Rousseau

The Dream is a large oil-on-canvas painting created by Henri Rousseau in 1910, one of more than 25 Rousseau paintings with a jungle theme. The Dream is the largest of the jungle paintings, measuring 6' 8½" x 9' 9½" (204.5 x 298.5 cm). It features an almost surreal portrait of Yadwigha (Jadwiga), Rousseau's Polish mistress from his youth, lying naked on a divan to the left of the painting, gazing over a landscape of lush jungle foliage, including lotus flowers, and animals including birds, monkeys, an elephant, a lion and lioness, and a snake. The nude's left arm reaches towards the lions and a black snake charmer who faces the viewer playing his flute, barely visible in the gloom of the jungle under the dim light of the full moon. A pink-bellied snake slithers through the undergrowth, its sinuous form reflecting the curves of the woman's hips and leg.

Although Rousseau completed more than twenty-five jungle paintings in his career, he never traveled outside France. He instead drew on images of the exotic as it was presented to the urban dweller through popular literature, colonial expositions, and the Paris Zoo. The lush jungle, wild animals, and mysterious horn player featured in this work were inspired by Rousseau's visits to the city's natural history museum and Jardin des plantes (a combined zoo and botanical garden). Of his visits the artist said, "When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream." The nude model in this painting reclines on a sofa, mixing the domestic and the exotic.