The painting celebrates North's love affair with Algeria. He went there is 1873 with Fred Walker, hoping that the climate would benefit his friend's delicate health. Walker soon returned but North stayed on, building himself a house called 'Dar el Ouard' ('The House of the Roses'), where he spent several months annually for the next six years. The roses in the foreground of Imprisonment clearly refer to the name of the house, although the title and the figures are characteristically enigmatic. There is a vague suggestion that Tennyson's Mariana has been transferred to some Algerian desert.
Another picture in which the house features was in the Fuller sale, Christie's, London, 7 April 2000, lot 53. Painted a year earlier, this was smaller and more objective in approach, a straightforward topographical account lacking the literary dimension we find in Imprisonment.