Both artist and subject are uncertain. The style is reminiscent of E. T. Parris, a versatile artist who painted panoramas but was also a fashionable portrait painter and a prolific exponent of sentimental 'keepsake' subjects. His other achievements included the restoration of Thornhill's murals in St Paul's Cathedral and a cartoon of Joseph of Arimathea preaching to the Britons which won a premium in the first Westminster Hall competition (1843). Parris was closely associated with royalty. He helped Sir Robert Smirke to prepare Westminster Abbey for the coronation of William IV and was appointed historical painter to Queen Adelaide in 1832. He also painted the coronation of Queen Victoria. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for nearly sixty years (1816-74), as well as supporting the British Institution and the Society of British Artists.
It has been suggested that the picture illustrates the story of Owein and Laudine in the Mabinogion, an eleventh-century Celtic collection of Arthurian tales which was translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (later Schreiber) in three volumes published 1838-49. Owein is a member of King Arthur's Round Table who goes adventuring in order to prove his bravery. In the course of his travels he kills Laudine's husband, the knight who, if this hypothesis is correct, is shown leaving for battle in the first panel. Owein then falls in love with Laudine (centre panel) and marries her, despite the initial disapproval of her court. This sense of unease would appear to be expressed in the figure of the ghost of Laudine's first husband appearing at the marriage feast in the final panel. Ghostly apparitions are commonplace in Celtic romance.
The validity of this theory clearly depends on whether we can see the picture (whoever its author) as post-dating the publication of Lady Charlotte Guest's translation.
We are grateful to Amanda Lyon for her help in preparing this entry.