The present drawing is related to one of the three sleeping figures in the picture Le Sommeil (fig. 1): two male figures on the left and one female figure on the right. The picture, dated 1867, was bought by the French State directly from Puvis de Chavannes in 1887 and is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, L. d'Argencourt and J. Foucart, Puvis de Chavannes, exhib. cat., Grand Palais, Paris and elsewhere, 1976, under no. 63, illustrated.
A study of the same model that was used in the present drawing is in the Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, one of a group of drawings present by the family of the artist in 1898, Boucher, op. cit., no. 33, illustrated. Another study for the foreground female figure in Le Sommeil is reproduced in A. Brown Price, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, exhib. cat., Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 1994, no. 48.
When Le Sommeil was exhibited at the 1867 Salon, Puvis de Chavannes asked for a quote of Virgil to be inscribed in the livret: 'Tempus erat quo prima quies mortalibus' (It was the time of the first rest for the overwhelmed mortals, Aeneid, II, v. 268). The picture was to illustrate the Trojans asleep with the wooden horse being pulled into the city. The composition was one of Puvis de Chavannes' favourite works. The critics welcomed the picture and Paul de Saint-Victor commented 'cette grande et noble esquisse..., peinture plus musicale que plastique et qui parle moins aux yeux qu'à l'esprit... C'est un beau songe esquissé comme avec un crayon d'argent sur la toile grise de la nuit', d'Argencourt and Foucart, op. cit., p. 88.