Description: Surtees offers the following description: “A young woman kneels on the floor, turned to the left; her head is turned round and rests on her left shoulder, looking down; the arms are extended downward, hands tightly clasped. In the fireplace beside her, a waxen male figure is tied to a stake. Upper right in a gallery (or at a window) a boy looks down at her and points to the left” ( A Catalogue Raisonné , vol. I, 123).
Copyright: Property of Mark Samuels Lasner
The drawing illustrates the central conception of DGR's ballad “Sister Helen”. Like the sketch for the ballad “Troy Town”, this constitutes part of a true “double work of art”. This drawing is an unfinished sketch, but a completed drawing “was done to illustrate” the poem (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70.2). This double work is unusual, as is “The Blessed Damozel“, because in all of DGR's other double works the poem was done for the picture rather than vice versa.
The date of the drawing is important for determining whether it was made to illustrate the ballad or whether the ballad was written for the drawing.
Surtees dates it conjecturally 1870 but a finished sketch was certainly done much earlier, as his letter of 11 January 1870 to Barbara Bodichon shows (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70.2). DGR seems to have given the finished drawing to Ruskin and was unhappy in 1870 to find that he could not longer locate the picture.
The companion work is DGR's Sister Helen .