Edward Burne-Jones would often prepare study sketches in feint watercolours, chalk or pencil before leaving them aside and picking them up at a later date. Sometimes this would be due to visiting a particular place and wishing to solidify his memories so that they could be referred when he had decided to create the main piece.
This large artwork stands at 186 cm × 111 cm and features several detailed portraits that would have required substantial planning. The artist would frequently address individual figures within his study drawings and then place them together when using oils. His studios in London were always busy places, with several artists working on different projects at the same time. He would perhaps ask his assistants to work on elements of a piece before he took on the more important parts of the composition himself. Burne-Jones himself was reliably punctual, never arriving later than 9am to commence work. He was very passionate about what he was doing and saw himself as a craftsman, rather than a professional painter.
The original painting is now owned by the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool, which itself holds an impressive collection from many notable British artists. The Lady Lever Art Gallery also holds work by the likes of Rossetti, Millais, Leighton and Alma-Tadema for example. It remains one of the more significant art galleries in the North of England, though much of the rest of Burne-Jones' work is actually part of a collection in Birmingham. Frederick Richards Leyland commissioned this painting and the artist chose to use Maria Zambaco as his model for this work. It is believed that they were romantically attached at the time and that the way in which she was depicted in The Beguiling of Merlin may have in some way have represented their own relationship.