The drawing is a study for the king asleep in The Council Chamber, the second picture in Burne-Jones' Briar Rose series. The subject of the sleeping princess had occupied Burne-Jones throughout most of his career. By 1872 he had painted a set of three small oils for William Graham. By the 1880s he was working on a large set of canvases, subsequently sold to Lord Faringdon and now at Buscot Park. Towards the end of his life Burne-Jones painted another version of three of the series; the third version of The Council Chamber is now in the Bancroft Collection, Wilmington, Delaware, and it has been suggested that stylistically the present drawing may relate to this picture.