Jacob Marling was an itinerant artist who settled in the provincial capital of Raleigh, North Carolina, to teach, paint portraits, and operate a gallery. The May Queen was his most ambitious work. The young ladies here are students of the Raleigh Academy celebrating the "Crowning of Flora," the goddess of flowers, on May Day, as their teachers look on. Before the advent of public education in the South, girls from well-to-do families were taught at home by tutors or sent to private schools like the Raleigh Academy. There they were taught an array of subjects, from reading, writing, needlework, and music-making to more advanced academic disciplines such as astronomy and philosophy. Marling included a number of individual portraits in the painting (among them his own, in profile at right) as well as two local architectural landmarks. The red brick building with impressive double portico is the city's new bank, and the cupola of the North Carolina statehouse is visible above the trees on the right.