Frederick Weekes belonged to a deeply artistic family. His father was the sculptor Henry Weekes (1807-1877), one of the most successful sculptors of the mid-Victorian period; his uncle was the artist William Weekes (1856-1909); and two of his four brothers, Henry and Herbert, were genre painters best known for their animal studies.
Frederick was brought up in an environment which nurtured his artistic sensibilities. He trained as a painter, but also became a renowned expert on medieval costume and design, and even taught at the Architectural Museum.
Weekes' interest in the Middle Ages led to a working relationship with the Victorian architect William Burges (1827-1881), who was a great champion of the Gothic Revival. Burges commissioned him to work on a number of his projects, most notably the re-building of Cardiff Castle for which Weekes painted furniture and friezes.
Executed in the 1870s, this triptych marks an exciting discovery in Weekes' emerging oeuvre. Painted on stippled gold ground on high quality mahogany panel, the depictions of four pre-Raphaelite maidens around a well in spring almost certainly formed part of an elaborate decorative scheme. The works had resided unrecognized in a private house for most of the last century.
One possible candidate for the triptych's original location was Milner Field, the extraordinary home of Sir Titus Salt, the wool baron and philanthropist, who created the eponymous Saltaire, a model village for the workers in his mills. Milner Field was a vast mansion constructed with every modern luxury but decorated in a medieval style. Weekes designed a number of murals, paintings and stained glass panels for the house. Some of these were removed by Salt's widow on her leaving the house in 1903.