Blog post

A cultural guide to sleep

Whatever happens, we will always need sleep

Beth Daley (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

However much human beings have adapted over time, one thing will never change - we will always need sleep. As an essential part of life, it is only right that sleep creeps into art. In 2004, a video of David Beckham sleeping was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Here, we've selected our favourite photographs, paintings and sketches of men, women and children getting a bit of shuteye at home, at work, on the battlefield and even in court! In one painting, a lady falls asleep under the influence of a hypnotist. In another, a tramp snoozes under a stairway. We’ve even caught Jesus Christ napping on a boat. Browse through our gallery - we bet you can’t do it without yawning!

1sleep-Femme endormie   4sleep-pink dress   1. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Public Domain. 2. The National Library of Wales, CC BY-NC-SA. 3. National Library of Scotland, CC BY-NC-SA. 4. National Library of Scotland, CC BY-NC-SA. 5. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 6. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Public Domain. 7. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 8. Parisienne de Photographie, Public Domain. 9. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Public Domain. 10. Central Library of Zurich, CC0. 11. National Library of France, Public Domain. 12. Byhistorisk Samling, CC BY-SA. 13. Byhistorisk Samling, CC BY-SA. 14. The British Library, Public Domain. 15. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 16. Parisienne de Photographie, Public Domain. 17. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Public Domain. 18. The Wellcome Library, CC BY 19. Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, Public Domain. 20. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 21. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 22. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 23. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 24. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 25. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 26. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 27. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. 28. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain.

art Europeana