Born in 1860, the son of a coachman, Arthur John Elsley joined the South Kensington School of Art at the age of fourteen. He submitted his first exhibit to the Royal Academy in 1878 and continued to paint thereafter until 1917. Well-acquainted with his contemporaries Frederick Morgan and Charles Burton Barber, Elsley quickly rose to fame as one of the most beloved and commercially sought after "chocolate box" artists of late Victorian England. His depiction of children and animals and idealized portrayal of their world appealed to the middle and upper classes of society. In light of the high rate of infant and child mortality in Victorian England at the time, this genre became enormously popular and artists like Elsley could command high sums for their work. It comes as no surprise that the commercial success of Elsley's paintings was also due in grand part to the wide diffusion of his work in the public realm. It is fair to say that his cozy interpretations of family life and the often humorous interactions of children and animals became associated with 'popular culture' of the day. His paintings were routinely reproduced for use in color calendars published by the American firm Thomas D. Murphy Company, soap advertisers, as well as for the cover of publications such as Bibby's Quarterly.
As with the work of his contemporary Frederick Morgan with whom Elsley shared a studio for a time, the use of particularly bright colors is a defining characteristic central to his artistic technique.
This picture features Marjorie, the artist's daughter, aged eight or nine, with her governess, Miss Gomersall, and an unknown baby. Elsley photographed the baby sitting on her mother's lap in his studio. A sepia photogravure of the present work was featured in Mother and Home, Christmas 1915. This well-known traditional nursery rhyme was a popular subject for artists of the period, and Arthur Drummond's work with this same title was reproduced as a Bovril print in 1909. Earlier, circa 1901, Elsley had treated this same subject with a similar composition that was reproduced as a color cover for Bibby's Quarterly - Literary Supplement, vol. 4, no. 4, Spring 1902 (T. Parker, Golden Hours, Somerset, 1998, p. 89, illustrated in color p. 70).