Rossetti worked on this shortly after making illustrations for an edition of Tennyson's poems. Consequently its subject has been related to Tennyson's description of King Arthur's death. However Rossetti himself described it simply as 'some people playing music'. Its title is derived from the blue tiles on the walls of the room.
Although dated 1857, Rossetti must have nearly finished the work before the end of 1856, when Morris wrote a poem inspired by it. This was included in his 1858 volume, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems. Morris was also the first owner of the work.