The artist in this drawing works very softly in adding detail, and therefore is most likely to have used a pencil to put this work together. Elsewhere, he would use charcoal and chalk many times, but this piece looks to have been in pencil. He works the detail by adding subtle touches before then going over some of the same areas as he starts to increase the contrast and give a greater clarity of form. He particularly accentuates the outline of the woman's body as well as under her chin in order to give a sense of shadowing and depth. She holds a circular item that is featured in the final painting, but here is left blank as he is more concerned with practicing the facial features and body outline of the model. In other pieces, no doubt, he would have covered the other figures from the final completed painting.
There is not a lot of information available on this particular drawing, unfortunately. It was sold at auction in 2002, but even the entry for its sale is brief in the extreme. It is simply described as a study for the danaides, with an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000. It eventually went for the top end of that guide price, making it one of the more expensive Waterhouse drawings ever sold. It is highly likely to have been a part of the selection which were sold off by the artist's widow shortly after his death, but at the time may well have been purchased with a variety of other items as most were auctioned in groups of work. Few collectors can now afford any of the artist's major paintings, whose value can run into the millions of pounds, but his sketches are far more accessible to the wider public and offer many the opportunity to own something from this exceptional artist's large oeuvre. He remains much loved by the public, perhaps even more so than by academics who sometimes view his work as not ambitious enough.
The artist loved to work from his sketchbooks, putting together all manner of portraits in preparation for later paintings. He sometimes gifted these to friends or fellow artists, but in most cases kept his sketchbooks within his studio and referred to them from time to time. He stuck to the mediums of chalk, pencil and charcoal and found that these best suited his drawing style, as well as the content that he covered. The vast majority of the members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement were highly accomplished draughtsmen and came through similar routes of artistic education, where this medium was considered a critical base for any young artist. Waterhouse kept a consistent look throughout his career which makes his brand particularly strong and much of his work instantly recognisable as his own, even though he worked in a similar fashion to the official members of the Brotherhood.