The completion of this version of DGR's picture was much delayed. He had the original
conception for such a work in 1849, and in 1856 he began a preparatory drawing for this
picture, which was to be made for Ellen Heaton at her request. DGR did not complete his
picture for her until 1859, however, and in the meantime he had done
another on the same subject for Lady Trevelyan (in 1858).
This is generally considered the less successful of the two pictures, although DGR called it
“the more forcible” of the two, and Surtees quotes DGR as saying that “an incautious
use of Red Lead” was causing deterioration in the picture by 1864 (Surtees,
A Catalogue Raisonné
vol. 1, 67). The
picture is now well articulated—indeed, of the two it alone makes strong use of the
gold sparks that fly from the whetstone John is using. These sparks center the pictorial
action and give to this version of the watercolour a dynamism that the other lacks.
Without those upflying flecks of gold the symbolical machinery tends to seem rather