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The medieval setting and costumes in this picture reflect Dicksee’s interest in the Pre-Raphaelites. His design for this picture originated in a sketching exercise at the Langham Sketching Club. The theme chosen for illustration by members of the club had been ‘Music’.

Music had been traditionally associated with the divine, but in the late nineteenth century aesthetes such as the writer Walter Pater focused on its abstract qualities. Immortal ideas are perhaps alluded to in the figure of the girl, who adopts the rapt expression seen in images of St Cecilia, patron saint of music.

August 2004