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The private worlds of day-time reverie and sleep had been the preferred themes of Balthus's work since the mid-1930s. The young woman here, whose identity is unknown, appears to be in deep slumber. However, the awkward position of her arm suggests that her sleep might be feigned, and reminds us that the scene as a whole has been contrived by the artist. The woman's dress front appears casually undone, but its erotic appeal seems, again, quite calculated. The woman's face and hairstyle are modern, but her clothes have a timeless air, and her pose, as well as the dark tonality of the painting, have precedents in the art of the Old Masters.

August 2004