Noel Paton was a distinguished Scottish painter and sculptor, whose oeuvre encompassed religious, mythological and allegorical subjects. The Valley of the Shadow of Death derives from Psalm 23, which begins: 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want'. Noel Paton illustrates the fourth stanza:
Even though I walk through the valley of The shadow of death,
I fear no Evil; for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
The combination of moral earnestness and poetic vision is characteristic of Noel Paton. He was an erudite man who forged a life-long friendship with Millais when he was at the Royal Academy schools in London, and has been credited with bringing his own version of Pre-Raphaelitism back to his native Scotland.