In this tall decorative panel, Aurora, the goddess of dawn, gazes longingly upon the sleeping mortal Cephalus, with whom she has fallen madly in love. Here, François Boucher used light, pastel colors and the broad, rapid brushstrokes found in his tapestry designs. The sky is blue tinged with pink, and there is a suggestion of dawn awakening as light appears on the horizon. In contrast to Aurora's ethereality, Cephalus and his sleeping dog are bound to the earth; Boucher's choice of colors for these two figures—greens, reds, browns, and blues—accentuate this fact.
In 1768, Jean-François Bergeret de Frouville commissioned a set of six mythological subjects for his house in Paris. Together with delicate furnishings of the period, these colorful paintings created a room of Rococo refinement and vivacity. Boucher painted the works, including this one and its companion piece, Venus on the Waves , just one year before his death. The other four paintings now belong to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.