The present watercolour is an illustration to Tennyson's famous The Idylls of the King, a cycle of twelve narrative poems recounting the legend of King Arthur, published between 1856 and 1885. In this scene Arthur, dying from a mortal wound received in battle with his enemy Mordred, is carried by Sir Bedivere to a lake on the borders of Avalon where he first received Excalibur. The magical boat collects him and carries him away with three queens to Avalon.
'Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Dark as a funeral scarf from stern to stern,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms,...
...Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge."
So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.'
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'The Passing of Arthur', Idylls of the King, from E.C. Stedman, ed., A Victorian Anthology, Cambridge, 1895)