This is a study for the finished watercolour that was sold in Christie's, London, 6 November 1995, lot 113 (£35,600). The finished watercolour was exhibited at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colour, 1906, and reproduced in the Studio the following year.
The subject is taken from the tenth tale of the tenth day of Boccaccio's Decameron, a story rendered into Latin by Petrarch and adapted by Chaucer for the 'Clerk's Tale' in the Canterbury Tales. The Marquis of Saluzzo is persuaded by his subjects to marry, and chooses as his wife a humble peasant girl, Griselda. He then proceeds to test her loyalty by subjecting her to a series of cruel trials, all of which she suffers with exemplary fortitude. For the Middle Ages, Griselda was the type or embodiment of Patience.
The story of Griselda appealed to several Victorian artists, notably C.W. Cope, who used it for a mural in the House of Lords, 1849. Cowper's painting, however, belongs to a later phase of interest in Italian literary sources, finding parallels in the work of Marie Spartali, Byam Shaw and others.
Cowper's Patient Griselda is a charming example of his early style, and the present drawing has something of the same quality.