Sandys was born in Norwich in 1829 and began his career at the tender age of thirteen when he received a commission to record in watercolour a collection of birds belonging to a local ornithologist, John Henry Gurney (1819-1890). In 1845 Sandys began work for the Rev. James Bulwer (1794-1879), who became his most important early patron, illustrating items from Bulwer's collection of church furnishings and local antiquities, from which the pottery in the present watercolour presumably came. The Rev. Bulwer also owned an important collection of Norwich School watercolours.