The subject was developed from one of Vedder's plates for the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, an illustration to stanza XLIII in the poem (stanza 49 in Vedder's order), for which the drawing is in the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington:
So when the Angel of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff - you shall not shrink.