Iris and Morpheus

at the Grand Trianon

Painting of René-Antoine HOUASSE, «Iris and Morpheus», Grand Trianon, Palace of Versailles
Iris, messenger of Juno, enters in the cave of Sleep,
and instantly, that sacred cavern of the god of Sleep was all illuminated with the glow and splendor of her garment, The Metamorphoses, Book XI, verse 616.
IrisGod of Sleep

In the Salon de Famille de Louis-Philippe of the Grand Trianon in Versailles a painting from René-Antoine Houasse, Morpheus awakening as Iris draws near (also Iris and Morpheus) can be seen.

Based on a part of Book XI of The Metamorphoses written by Ovid, it represents the particular moment when Iris, messager of Juno enters the cave of the Sleep to order to him to make Alcynoe dream.

Iris according to text of Book XI of The Metamorphoses

  1. but Juno could not long accept as hers
  2. these supplications on behalf of one
  3. then dead; and that she might persuade Halcyone
  4. to turn her death-polluted hands away
  5. from hallowed altars, Juno said in haste,

    “O, Iris, best of all my messengers,

  6. go quickly to the dreadful court of Sleep,

  7. and in my name command him to despatch

  8. a dream in the shape of Ceyx, who is dead,

  9. and tell Halcyone the woeful truth.”

  10. So she commanded.—Iris instantly
  11. assumed a garment of a thousand tints;
  12. and as she marked the high skies with her arch,
  13. went swiftly thence as ordered, to the place
  14. where Sleep was then concealed beneath a rock.
  15. Near the Cimmerian Land there is a cave,
  16. with a long entrance, in a hallowed mountain,
  17. the home of slothful Sleep. To that dark cave
  18. the Sun, when rising or in middle skies,
  19. or setting, never can approach with light.
  20. There dense fogs, mingled with the dark, exhale
  21. darkness from the black soil—and all that place
  22. is shadowed in a deep mysterious gloom.
  23. No wakeful bird with visage crested high
  24. calls forth the morning's beauty in clear notes;
  25. nor do the watchful dogs, more watchful geese,
  26. nor wild beasts, cattle, nor the waving trees,
  27. make sound or whisper; and the human voice
  28. is never heard there—silent Rest is there.
  29. But, from the bottom of a rock beneath,
  30. Lethean waters of a stream ooze forth,
  31. sounds of a rivulet, which trickle with
  32. soft murmuring amid the pebbles and
  33. invite soft sleep. Before the cavern doors
  34. most fertile poppies and a wealth of herbs
  35. bloom in abundance, from the juice of which
  36. the humid night-hours gather sleep and spread
  37. it over darkened Earth. No door is in
  38. that cavern-home and not a hinge's noise
  39. nor guarding porter's voice disturbs the calm.
  40. But in the middle is a resting-couch,
  41. raised high on night-black ebony and soft
  42. with feathered cushions, all jet black, concealed
  43. by a rich coverlet as dark as night,
  44. on which the god of sleep, dissolved in sloth
  45. lies with unmoving limbs. Around him there
  46. in all directions, unsubstantial dreams
  47. recline in imitation of all shapes—
  48. as many as the uncounted ears of corn
  49. at harvest—as the myriad leaves of trees—
  50. or tiny sand grains spread upon the shore.
  51. As soon as Iris entered that dread gloom,
  52. she pushed aside the visions in her way
  53. with her fair glowing hands; and instantly,
  54. that sacred cavern of the god of Sleep
  55. was all illuminated with the glow
  56. and splendor of her garment.—Out of himself
  57. the god with difficulty lifted up
  58. his lanquid eyes. From this small sign of life
  59. relapsing many times to languid sloth,
  60. while nodding, with his chin he struck his breast
  61. again and again. At last he roused himself
  62. from gloom and slumber; and, while raised upon
  63. his elbow, he enquired of Iris why
  64. she came to him.—He knew her by her name.
  65. She answered him,

    “O, Sleep, divine repose

  66. of all things! Gentlest of the deities!

  67. Peace to the troubled mind, from which you drive

  68. the cares of life, restorer of men's strength

  69. when wearied with the toils of day, command

  70. a vision that shall seem the actual form

  71. of royal Ceyx to visit Trachin famed

  72. for Hercules and tell Halcyone

  73. his death by shipwreck. It is Juno's wish.”

  74. Iris departed after this was said.
  75. For she no longer could endure the effect
  76. of slumber-vapor; and as soon as she
  77. knew sleep was creeping over her tired limbs
  78. she flew from there—and she departed by
  79. the rainbow, over which she came before.

Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book XI, verses 583 to 632.