This work was inspired by John Keats's poem The Eve of St Agnes which was published in 1820. Hughes depicts three incidents from the poem. The frame is inscribed with the fourth verse which sets the scene for these episodes: Porphyro's approach to the castle, where a lavish banquet is in progress; his awakening of Madeline from her dreams; and the lovers' silent escape from the dark castle into the night. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy the same year as Hughes's April Love. John Ruskin described it as 'A noble picture... the face of the awakening Madeline is exquisite'.