This bronze depicts a sleeping Penelope waiting for her husband Ulysses to return from the Trojan War, a story told in Homer's Odyssey. Despite having many suitors, she chose to await his return and as such is associated with marital fidelity. Over the twenty year period Penelope devised a variety of tricks to delay the suitors, of which there were over a hundrerd, inlcuding the weaving of a burial shroud for Laertes, her father-in-law, which she unrravelled each evening. References to this can be seen in this bronze; in Penelope's right hand there is a spool of yarn and further spools can be found in the basket by her feet.
The original marble sculpture by Cavalier was considered a great triumph winning him a first class medal and medal of honour at the 1849 Salon and established him as one of the great modern sculptors of the time. It can be found at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.