The present work is one of several compositions devoted to the theme of the dream. Featuring one of the artist’s archetypal passive adolescents slumbering or daydreaming, who may have been modeled by Frédérique Tison, the two subjects of Étude pour "Le Rêve I" suggest both fortitude and vulnerability. While the languorous girls in a petit-bourgeois interior are presented as actors on stage, they are completely enveloped in their own world and unaware they are being observed. Slung over the sofa, the lack of tension of the reclining figure suggests deep sleep and the universal language of serenity. Jean Clair explains the ingenuity of the Le Rêve series in the context of the artist’s practice and overall treatment of the theme: “Balthus often drew or painted young girls asleep, saying they were ‘dreamers;’ but for the first time he represents in these paintings at once the sleeper and the object of her dream… he places the conjured-up figure amidst the reassuring, familiar context of everyday reality” (Balthus (exhibition catalogue), Venice, 2001, p. 334).
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