The subject of this image remains a mystery. It may have been inspired by medieval songs or tales, and its composition and colour reflect the intensity of illuminated manuscripts. As with other works by Rossetti, it may be partly autobiographical, as he was at the time considering marriage to Elizabeth Siddall, who posed for the seated figure in red. A servant (top left) places a branch of an orange-tree, a symbol of marriage, on the bed. However, instead of being joyous, the scene is extremely melancholy, perhaps an allusion to Siddall's illness at this time, which was thought to be fatal.
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