A Bristol portrait painter and miniaturist, Simmons turned to fairy painting in the 1860s as it became an increasingly popular genre, springing both from the constant search for narrative subject matter, but also from a desire to escape the mundanity of everyday Victorian life. The works of Shakespeare provided the richest source of fairy subject-matter, one which had been explored earlier in the paintings of Puck and Titania by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Henry Fuseli for Boydell's 1789 Shakespeare Gallery. While the subject matter came from literature, the often eroticised aesthetic of fairy painting emerged from the appearance of Romantic ballet in London in the 1840s.
Almost all of Simmons' fairy paintings take Titania as their subject, treating her as 'a paragon of Victorian maidenhood' (J. Maas cited in J. Martineau (ed.), Victorian Fairy Painting, London, 1998, p. 21). Here, she is depicted asleep, as Puck and Oberon fly above, about to sprinkle her with the love potion which will cause her to fall in love with the ass, Bottom. To her right is the sleeping Hermia. Nude, draped in diaphanous gowns, they lie among convolvulus and honeysuckle, signifying uncertainty and the bonds of love in the Victorian language of flowers.
The extraordinary intensity and luminosity of Simmons' watercolours, alongside the highly detailed flora and fauna, give them an almost hallucinatory atmosphere, drawing the viewer into his fantastical world.