This painting depicts an episode from the legend of Roderick, the last king of the Spanish Visigoths. After spying on his maids of honor to determine the fairest among them, the king chose Florinda (at center left), who became the object of his love. In revenge, Florinda's father called the Arabs into Spain and brought about the conquest. This painting, which was shown at the Salon of 1853, is a replica of a version of the same size given by Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1852.
Winterhalter used a similar composition for Empress Eugénie Surrounded by Her Ladies-in-Waiting