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The Two Crowns of the title are the golden crown of a king and the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross. Dicksee invented this highly moral scene in which a medieval king, riding in a triumphal procession, is startled by the sight of a crucifix (or perhaps sees a vision of Christ) and is reminded of the transience of earthly power and success. In fact the chivalric, Christian knight had been a role model for the modern gentleman for most of the nineteenth century. This painting was bought for the nation from the Royal Academy in 1900 for £2,000.

September 2004