The subject of two men fighting over a woman - one that had many resonances in his own life - fascinated Rossetti from boyhood, and he returned to it in pictorial terms over many years. Virginia Surtees' catalogue lists a 'juvenile sketch' made as early as 1840, when the artist was only twelve (no. 180B), and a more mature sketch in brush and indian ink which she dates to c. 1853 (no. 180A). The latter drawing is in the Birmingham Art Gallery.
Lots 3 and 4, one dated 1855, the other done, according to William Michael Rossetti, 'about the same time', are further variations on the theme. However, it was not until 1865 that the composition reached definitive form in a watercolour now in the Detroit Institute of Arts (Surtees, no. 180 and pl. 262).