Sleep and His Half-Brother Death

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Sleep and His Half-Brother Death
Waterhouse-sleep and his half-brother death-1874.jpg
ArtistJohn William Waterhouse
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions70 cm × 91 cm (28 in × 36 in)

Sleep and His Half-Brother Death is a painting by John William Waterhouse completed in 1874.[1]

Waterhouse's first Royal Academy exhibit (submitted from his father's house at 1 Scarsdale Villas),[2] it was painted after both his younger brothers died of tuberculosis.[3]

Hypnos and Thanatos[edit]

The painting itself is a reference to the Greek gods Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) who, in the Greek mythology, were brothers. Despite their similar poses in the painting, the character in the foreground is bathed in light, while his brother is shrouded in darkness; the first therefore represents Sleep, the latter Death.[4] The personification of Sleep clasps poppies, symbolic of narcosis and dreamlike-states.[5]


  1. ^ "Sleep and his Half-brother Death". Archived from the original on 9 September 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  2. ^ Noakes, Aubrey. 2004. Waterhouse: John William Waterhouse. London: Chaucer Press. p. 23. ISBN 1-904449-39-5
  3. ^ Hobson, Anthony. 1989. J. W. Waterhouse. Oxford: Phaidon Christie's. pp. 20-21. ISBN 0-7148-8066-3
  4. ^ Kryger, Meir H. (2013). Atlas of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Expert Consult - Online. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-323-28917-7.
  5. ^ Krahn, Lois E.; Silber, Michael H.; Morgenthaler, Timothy I. (2010). Atlas of Sleep Medicine. CRC Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-84184-763-4.