The drawing features a female figure looking across to our right, at an angle regularly used by the artist. She has long brown hair which has been tidied behind her head and is presented in a natural manner, without any glamour. Her portrait is cut off around the shoulders as the artist chooses to concentrate on her facial features for the purpose of this study piece. Her features are soft, which is entirely in keeping with the artist's normal preference when he would select new models. He became famous for this look which persisted throughout his portraiture, though was also common within the Pre-Raphaelite movement of around that time with which he shared many stylistic similarities. Some of Waterhouse's paintings were fairly complex but it would only really be the portrait elements of them that he would focus on in his preparations, believing this genre to be the most challenging and also the hardest to amend directly on the canvas once the proper painting had been commenced.
The drawing was sold at an event run by Sotheby's at their London branch titled British & Irish Art in late 2013. This charcoal drawing was the fifth lot and had received a pre-sale estimate of £8,000-12,000. It surpassed this valuation and was one of a number of drawings from this artist which made their way into this particular auction. Most drawings that we have uncovered from his career were in chalk or pencil, so this charcoal item is slightly more unusual, though its connection to an existing painting would have increased its value substantially. One can see the reason for the comparison to A Tale from the Decameron, 1916, and the overall theme of that piece was based on Giovanni Boccaccio's literary masterpiece, The Decameron from the 14th century. The artist made use of literature as inspiration for many of his paintings, including also more recent British poetry as well as classical Greek mythology.
John William Waterhouse suffered somewhat from arriving late to the party of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, essentially just sitting on the fringes of it and working in a similar way. Some would then criticise an apparent lack of innovation though in recent years the public has really warmed to this artist, not concerning themselves with the context and timing of his career a good century or so ago. He can now be considered just as famous at the key lights of the Brotherhood, thanks to the popularity of his major works, such as Lady of Shalott, Boreas and Hylas and the Nymphs. There is a timeless charm to his work which appeals today to those of us in the modern world, where traditional ideas and techniques have been replaced by automation and mass production. His paintings hark back to a simpler, more innocent time which some of us actually miss.