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Night floats through the evening sky, his red robes reminiscent of the sunset, and his billowing cloak darkening the sky behind him. He floats arm in arm with Sleep, who gently scatters poppies onto the earth beneath, from the armful of flowers that he has taken from his girdle. (The Victorians used laudanum as a sleeping draught, which was made from a tincture of the opium poppy.) Both figures appear relaxed, with closed eyes, as if already half-asleep. The composition for the painting was inspired by Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' where Zephyr and Chloris fly with limbs entwined as a twofold entity: the ruddy Zephyr (Greek for 'the west wind') is puffing vigorously while the fair Chloris gently sighs the warm breath that wafts Venus ashore.
Night and Sleep
oil on canvas
H 108.8 x W 157.8 cm