The present drawing and lot 22 are part of a series of 25 drawings and fourteen decorated initials Leighton executed for George Eliot’s Romola: a historical romance set in Renaissance Florence and serialised in the Cornhill Magazine 1862-3. Initially Eliot disapproved of Leighton’s designs and relations between the two were strained, however they were eventually reconciled and Leighton’s drawings were acknowledged to have contributed to the edition’s commercial success and the surge in popularity of illustration.
The present drawing shows Tessa with her child and her old nurse Monna Lisa after Tito has tricked her into a sham marriage. The finished engraving is in the reverse direction to this drawing.
In the 1860s there was an was a vast increase in the number of books and periodicals published with black and white line plates, both young artists and more seasoned professionals provided designs for the wood block engravers. Artists such as George John Pinwell (1842-1875) and Frederick Walker (1840-1875) produced watercolours and engravings for the Dalziel Brothers. Leighton’s first commissions as an illustrator came from the Cornhill Magazine; his drawings of The Great God Pan and Ariadne appeared as plates accompanying Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poems 'A Musical Instrument’ and 'Ariadne at Naxos’ in 1860. Both Leighton and Poynter worked for the Dalziel Brothers and executed designs for Dalziel’s Illustrated Bible during the 1860s.