John Bagnold Burgess, well-known genre painter of the Victorian period, was born into an artistic family. His father, H.W. Burgess was a successful landscape painter who worked for William IV and his grandfather, William Burgess, was a portrait painter. A pupil of James Matthews Leigh, Burgess was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British artists at Suffolk Street throughout his career.
Burgess drew the most acclaim for his pictures that focused on Spanish, Gypsy and North African subjects. He traveled frequently in Spain often in the company of his good friend and fellow artist, Edwin Long. Drawing from his observations of the local architecture and native dress, he worked up a variety of inventive compositions with a colorful cast of characters such as those featured in The Shawl Seller, 1870 (sold Christie's, London, 6 February, 1981, lot 108).
The delightful scene featured in the present work, most likely contrived by the artist, takes place in the foyer of a Moroccan home where two English ladies and a young boy are greeted by a bearded gentleman dressed in North African attire. Interestingly, the encounter seems to revolve more around the meeting of the children rather than the adults. The children, who eye each other with curiosity and a bit of skepticism, face each other at their parents' urging. Hidden in the shadows, a group of young girls coyly peek out of the curtains to view the scene.