A popular artist of the late nineteenth century, Herbert Schmalz (known as Herbert Carmichael after 1918) generally painted portraits and large scale narrative works, often depicting religious or historical subjects. Too Late, c. 1884-86, is set against the aftermath of the fall of a Roman stronghold to Christianised barbarians.
A yound barbarian chieftain returns from battle; he is too late, however, to be welcomed by his betrothed, who lies dead surrounded by mourners. The room is filled with Christian and barbarian symbols. Death is represented by the irises and by the extinguished flame on one side of the altar, while the promise of eventual reunion is symbolised by the two stars high in the background.
Too Late was shown at the Royal Academy, London, in 1884 and was subsequently included in the Grosvenor Gallery Intercolonial Exhibition which traveled to Melbourne in 1887. The painting, which carries the date 1886, was presumably begun in or around 1884 but was perhaps not completed and signed until two years later.