There are fewer paintings that fully convey the peculiar quality of dreams. The clever incorporation of painted wood effects further enhances the uncanny atmosphere.
An open gate invites us in. Against a backdrop of De Chirico-esqe classical ruins and under a cloudless summer sky that is somehow too vast we see a young girl brandishing a knife to see off a nightingale, meanwhile her companion has fallen into a swoon. Dwarfing the entire landscape is a wooden shed where a strange faceless figure is clutching another young girl while reaching for the knob attached to the picture frame.
Ernst said that during a fevered hallucination the wood grain panelling took on “successively the aspect of an eye, a nose, a bird’s head, a menacing nightingale, a spinning top, and so on.”