In Chaucer's Legend of Good Women the poet has a vision in which Cupid presents him with a series of heroines from classical antiquity who have suffered or even died out of devotion to their lovers. The story was first treated by Burne-Jones in terms of designs for needlework and stained glass evolved in 1863-4. A watercolour followed in 1865 (sold in these Rooms 25 October 1991, lot 26, illustrated in catalogue), and a second, larger, one was painted in 1871 for the artist's most enthusiastic patron, William Graham (see Oliver Garnett, 'The Letters and Collection of William Graham', Walpole Society, LXII, 2000, p. 287, no. b5 and pl. 118).
The present drawing is for the figure of Chaucer asleep at a fountain, dreaming of Cupid leading his procession of heroines. The style of the drawing clearly links it to the 1871 painting rather than that of 1865.