Erskine Nicol was born in Leith and trained at the Trustees' Academy. He developed his particular style of genre painting, which is characterised by a gentle humour, in Ireland during a four year residence in the late 1840s. He moved to London in 1862, where he continued to paint both Irish and Scottish subjects, exhibiting at both the Royal Academy and British Institution.
Nicol's title wryly indicates the serious purpose of this little boy, who avidly scans a curiosity shop through the window, his purse dangling from his arm. His elder brother, who has already acquired a picture, presumably offers his advice upon the considered wares.