The picture was discussed by F.G. Stephens in the Athenaeum when it was exhibited at Agnew's in the summer of 1899. 'At Messrs. Agnew and Sons' gallery may be seen a small but poetical painting called 'The Good Samaritan', by Mr Watts, the charm of which is greatly due to the extreme simplicity of the composition, and, above all, to the effect of ruddy twilight after a lurid sunset. In fact, the approach of night is portrayed impressively. The victim has been stripped and thrown down helpless at the side of the road before the rescuer came up, descended from his mule, and, approaching, applied one hand to the man's side in order to test whether life remained there. The style of the picture is characteristically simple and large. The colouration, including the dark red and blue draperies, the flesh tints of the naked man, the obscurity of the landscape, and the glare of the sky, is exactly right. As there is much that is noble in the picture, it matters little that the head of the Samaritan is too small.'
Watts had treated the subject in a picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850 (Manchester City Art Gallery), but on a much larger scale and in a completely different composition. The labels on the back suggest that the frame was originally on the oil study of Ganymede (1864) which is still in the Watts Gallery at Compton. The label for the Watts exhibition at the New Gallery in 1896-7 certainly refers to this picture and not to ours.