The artist was born Laura Theresa Epps, the daughter of Dr. George Napoleon Epps, a well-known homeopathic practitioner; her sister Ellen, who was also a painter, married Edmund Gosse. Laura studied art under Alma-Tadema, who had settled in London in 1870 on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, and married him, as his second wife, the following year. The most powerful influence on her work is that of Dutch seventeenth-century painting, also strong but supressed in her husband's classical subjects. Alice Meynell wrote of her: 'In the details of domestic life, Dutch habits, Dutch furniture, and Dutch dress of the gentler and more courtly sort of the seventeenth-century, Mrs. Alma-Tadema has found unconventional, honest and...homely grace...The artist has surrounded herself by relics and remains of the time and the country she loves,...and thus her pictures seem to be produced within a genuine little Holland, in a genuine seventeenth-century, without the blunders of ordinary historical research' (Art Journal, November 1883, pp. 345-6).
The present picture was much admired when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1896. The Times thought it 'the most perfect thing that Mrs. Alma-Tadema has ever done', while the Athenaeum felt that it bore 'a happy resemblance to something which is between a fine Gonzales Coques (who is Mrs. Alma-Tadema's model in art) and an ordinary Terburg, and is, perhaps, quite as spirited, expressive, and spontaneous as any picture we owe to the former master.' Although 'less highly finished, less limpid in its darker portions, and altogether less elaborately modelled than is usually the case in Mrs. Tadema's productions, yet it lacks nothing of that breadth we have always admired in her works.'
The artist exhibited regularly at the RA from 1873. She also supported the Grosvenor and New Galleries, the Paris Salon and the Berlin Academy, and was one of only two English women who contributed to the International Exhibition in Paris in 1878. It has been said that, unlike her husband, she did not give her work opus numbers, but our picture shows that this was not the case.