Burne-Jones made his first designs for the story of Pygmalion and the Image in 1867. These were part of a group intended to illustrate a lavish edition of William Morris's poem 'The Earthly Paradise'. The myth, which Morris adapted from Ovid, concerns a sculptor whose love for one of his own creations is the means of its coming to life. For his paintings, Burne-Jones compressed the story into four scenes, working from 1868 simultaneously on two versions of the series (the set he exhibited in 1879 is in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery). This drawing is a preliminary study for the third scene, in which the goddess Venus animates the statue.