The French painter Legros moved to London in 1863, and from then exhibited both at the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. At first he had followed the example of Courbet in style, but in the later 1860s came to admire Ingres and the Italian old masters, and emphasised outline and local colour in his paintings. He painted a series of subjects in church, so recording an attitude to modern piety.
The priest at the right was painted from an Italian model, and probably the other was also a model. The heads of two boys in the middle ground were painted out by the artist, but now show through.