The present drawing is a study for the head of the left-hand figure in Poynter’s 1901 Royal Academy exhibit Helena and Hermia (fig.1), which was purchased for the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, in 1902. The painting depicts a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, scene ii, where Helena describes their carefree, happy school days together:
"O! Is it all forgot?
All schooldays’ friendship, childhood innocence?
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our neelds created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds,
Had been incorporate.”
Poynter also executed a watercolour of the same subject in 1899.