In the years around 1870, the period of his tempestuous relationship with Marie Zambaco, Burne-Jones commenced many subjects presenting love as an overwhelming, destructive power. The most ambitious of these was the Troy Tryptich, organised like a Mantegna altarpiece in an elaborate frame. A large unfinished oil painting of the tryptich, mainly by Burne-Jones's assistants, is in the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. The three main images show how Paris's choice of Venus and his abduction of Helen lead to the destruction of his city, Troy. The tryptich also was to have had a predella with seven further scenes. Burne-Jones never realised the tryptich itself although he turned several individual scenes into independent paintings. His selection of these scenes in the early 1870s seems to mirror his own emotional turbulence at this period.
Venus Discordia, a subject from the predella, is the most obvious of these. It shows the enthroned Venus, for whom the present drawing is a study, presiding over scenes of violence and destruction. Like its pendent, Venus Concordia, the composition was turned into an elaborate pencil drawing in 1871 (both drawings, Whitworth Art Gallery.) However in 1872, soon after his final break with Marie Zambaco, Burne-Jones began a large oil painting of the subject, significantly unfinished (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). The present drawing was probably produced bwtween 1870 and 1873 and clearly illustrates Burne-Jones's delicate drawing style at this time, using a fine, rather hard pencil line. He was much interested in Italian Renaissance drawing then and it is probable that in drawings of this type he sought to emulate the qualities of silverpoint