This painting is typical of Rossetti's late sensuous style. It is based on a poem, of the same name, that the artist wrote when he was 19. It told the story of a woman who died young, leaving her lover behind. The couple prayed they would be reunited in the afterlife.
The painting corresponds to the first verse of the poem:
‘The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth Of waters stilled at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.’
The unusual composition, with a small predella, or decorated base, under the main picture, was suggested by Rossetti's patron, William Graham (1817-1885), who bought the original, larger version of this painting. This version was commissioned by the Liverpool-based shipping magnate and Pre-Raphaelite patron Frederick Leyland (1831-1892).