This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex (see black and white image). Several further versions were woven later. Birmingham's 'The Attainment' 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.
The final scene shows the three successful knights. The relative purity of each knight's life is represented by their distance from the Holy Grail, which sits on the altar inside the chapel. Sir Galahad kneels in the doorway surrounded by white lilies, symbolising his purity. On the left are Sir Bors and Sir Perceval.
Three standing angels hold symbols of Christ's passion, including the bleeding lance of Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced his side on the cross. Above the Holy Grail is a Pentecostal wind, symbolising the presence of the Holy Spirit.