Ford Madox Brown exhibited his painting ''Wycliffe Reading his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt, in the Presence of Chaucer and Gower' at the Free Exhibition. As he notes in his diary on 29 November 1847 he came up with the subject matter whilst travelling from Kent to London (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 17). This drawing is a drapery study for the main figure of Wycliffe. Brown used professional models for studies involving pose or close-ups of body parts. However, the cartoon-like face of this figure has been drawn from imagination and the figure has no hands indicating that this study was done from an artist's lay figure. This had the advantages of keep the folds of cloth completely still.
On 28 December 1847 Brown wrote in his diary 'tried to work did nothing all day but arrange the lay figure for Wicif & superintended the making of a gown for Chaucer, I am sadly idle.' On the 29th he worked again 'at arranging the dress of Wicliff' and 'muddled at a drawing of it till ½ past 2.' After a break for New Year he continued his study on 2 January 1848 noting that he 'got to work by ½ past eleven drawing at the draperies for Wicliff till ½ past 3' and on 3 January he finishes the drawing, recording that he 'drew at the draperies of Wicliff till ½ past 3, finished the study, went of for a walk.'