This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex. Several further versions were woven later. Birmingham's 'The Failure of Sir Gawain' is one of three tapestries commissioned in 1895 by the industrialist Laurence Hodson, for his house Compton Hall near Wolverhampton.
The subject matter is based on the 15th century text Le Morte D'Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. It tells the story of the spiritual quest by the knights of King Arthur's round table for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper.
Here the third scene depicts two knights who failed in their quest because they had previously led sinful lives. The story told how after many days of riding they stopped to rest and pray at a deserted chapel, but were told that they could not enter. Sir Uwaine is shown on the left, and Sir Gawaine is nearest the angel, who is barring the entrance to the chapel. A brilliant light shines from within, suggesting the presence of the Holy Grail.
The next scene in the series showed the failure of Sir Lancelot, but this subject is not in Birmingham's collection.