Dicksee's picture illustrates an episode recorded in St Mark's Gospel, in which Jesus picks grain on the Sabbath, thereby challenging the Pharisees' injunction not to do so. He wanted to make the point that God intended the Sabbath to be a day of rest out of his love for humanity, rather than the religious obstacle that it had become after the Pharisees insisted on observing the letter rather than the spirit of the law. The painting first belonged to John Derby Allcroft, a glove manufacturer, who built the magnificent Stokesay Court in Shropshire, which he filled with a notable collection of pictures purchased from the walls of the Royal Academy. The picture formed the centrepiece of the Library, where Allcroft, a devout exponent of 'muscular Christianity', retired for contemplation. Thomas Dicksee was the father of Sir Frank Dicksee (see lots 11 and 21).