This is one of two drapery studies for the poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) in Ford Madox Brown's discarded triptych 'The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry.' Brown did not complete the wings of the triptych but made the central panel into 'Chaucer at the Court of Edward III' (1851, oil on canvas, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). A small oil study, now at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, gives a good idea of the original triptych composition.
Burns was one of the poets on the right wing. In the triptych he holds a scroll and pen and wears a tartan sash which Brown has left room for at the top of the drawing. This rather abstract-looking drapery study shows the intensity of Brown's preparations for a painting and his close observation of minute details such as the fall of the fabric.