About this artwork

Scott’s painting was inspired by Edmund Spencer’s sixteenth-century poem ‘The Faerie Queen’. In the poem, Una is the beautiful young daughter of a king and queen who have been imprisoned by a ferocious dragon. Una undertakes a quest to free her parents, but on her journey she encounters a fierce lion. The lion is so captivated by Una’s innocence and beauty that he abandons his plan to eat her, and vows instead to become her protector and companion. Scott shows Una gently resting her fingers in the lion’s terrific mane, as they make their way through the autumnal wood together. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1860, but Scott returned to the picture much later in his life and retouched various parts, including Una’s face and dress.

William Bell Scott

William Bell Scott

Scott's detailed and highly coloured paintings of historical, religious and contemporary themes reflect the ideas and concerns he shared with his Pre-Raphaelite friends, in particular, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Scott and his brother, David, trained at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh and worked for their father, an engraver, before launching their own careers as painters. Scott's association with the Pre-Raphaelite movement followed his move to London in 1837. He was then appointed Master of the Government School of Design in Newcastle in 1843. Scott painted his famous murals, including 'Iron and Coal', a scene of contemporary industrial life, in Wallington Hall.