Achieving tremendous success during his own lifetime, both in his native France, as well as abroad, Gustave Michel (d. 1924) is scarcely remembered now, and apart from public monuments and commissions, his work is rarely seen. Born in Paris to parents who, despite their modest means, supported his early artistic vocation, Michel studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Jouffroy. Having made a name for himself as a statuaire, collaborating with established artists on their large-scale works, he began exhibiting at the Salon from 1875.
However, it was his 1886 bronze Circé, for the square des Batignolles, which brought Michel true recognition as a sculptor in his own right. First in a series of allegorical works depicting the graceful and invariably nude female form, Circe was followed in 1889 by La Fortune enlevant son bandeau (examples now in Annaba, Algeria, and the Musée de Nancy), in 1893 by Aurore, and most notably, in 1896 by La Pensée (formerly in the Musée du Luxembourg, and later in the foyer of the Opéra-Comique), for which Michel was awarded a médaille d'honneur at the Salon. The following year, he exhibited the present statuesque work, Dans le rêve, which, no less successful than the previous year's triumph, was also destined for the Musée du Luxembourg. In his 1906 article on the work of Michel, art critic Henry Marcel lauded the sculpture, describing the graceful semi-conscious stretching and undulating curvaceousness of the naked virgin as "enchantements pour les yeux" (op. cit., p. 75). Like many of Michel's allegorical works, smaller editions of Dans le rêve were reproduced in bronze by the Susse foundry, and in biscuit porcelain by Sèvres.