Although not yet part of the mainstream of European Symbolism, in the mid-1880s, Sartorio began to express an interest in the work of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the English Pre-Raphaelites.
The present work is part of a series of similar, ostensibly "Byzantine" paintings, which contained a highly stylized decorative quality. These works are pervaded by a profound sense of mystery and suspense, and show ceremoniously dressed female figures at prayer in precisely rendered Byzantine church interiors. In them, Sartorio sought to align himself with the English Romantics, French Parnassian poets, and other European writers and artists who, although united by little more than opposition to the modernity of their time, are today recognized as constituting the beginnings of a Symbolist movement.
The exact meaning of the present work is perhaps purposefully vague -- designed to evoke a mood rather than reflect a historical reality. The icon, screen by the girl's feet and spelling of Salomon give the picture an Orthodox, possibly 15th century, setting. The girl is wearing a traditional ceremonial dress that signifies her unmarried status and the man in the background is kneeling with his right hand to his face indicating he is praying. The demonic smoking hall opening up behind the bride, probably from burning incense, provides a slightly sinister mood which contrasts with the sense of loss and purity that she conveys. It is likely that Sartorio is depicting a betrothal between the young girl and the man behind her, perhaps after she has lost a previous lover.
The present work reveals a particularly strong fascination for architectural detail, which the artist learned from his grandfather, the sculptor Gerolamo Sartorio, who exhorted his grandson from a young age to make precise studies of the archeological treasures of his home city of Rome.
Sartorio's vague links to European Symbolism, as yet not fully expressed in the present work, became much stronger in the early 1890s. Out of an introduction in 1891 to Lisa Stillman, a young American artist linked to the Pre-Raphaelites, Sartorio quickly developed a strong interest in English art of the period. He travelled to England in 1893 and in 1894, where he exhibited, and developed a highly idealized vision of the female form, which was strongly coloured by the work of Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.