The younger sister of the animal painter and sculptor John Macallan Swan (1847-1910), Alice is now little known in her own right, and the authorship of this work is a fascinating rediscovery and an addition to her oeuvre. She was taught to paint by her much older brother, who had himself studied at Worcester School of Art, the Royal Academy Schools and Lambeth School of Art before travelling to study in the École des Beaux-Artes in Paris under Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Much of Alice's work is still-life and flower pictures, which she exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1882 and 1898. In 1923 she was commissioned to paint a watercolour of St Paul's from Waterloo Bridge for Queen Mary's Dolls' House (Royal Collection RCIN 927413). Two works with the same distinctive dry brush stippling technique seen here are held in the collections of the Royal Watercolour Society and a series of female saints in very similar compositions to the present drawing appeared on the London art market in the early 1980s.