Robert Scott Lauder was Herdman's principal influence at the Trustee's Academy in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Lauder had spent a number of years in Italy, where he had been attracted by the Venetian colourists. He was an inspirational and original tutor and Herdman was a regular recipient of prizes at the Academy, in 1854 he won the Keith prize from the RSA and a bronze medal. Although he was keen to go to Italy and pursue his studies there, he was constrained by the cost and thus opted for the RSA scheme to employ young painters abroad to make copies for them. At this time they were amassing the beginnings of a collection of old master copies. Lauder wrote to the RSA in June 1855 recommending Herdman and he was commissioned to make 'an Experimental Drawing from one of Massaccio's [sic] Frescoes, in the Carmine in Florence.' During his time there he produced genre paintings such as lot 37 in a smooth style reminiscent of the early works of Thomas Faed.
Although he returned to Scotland after a year, Italy continued to inspire several works during the following decade including his diploma work 'La Culla' of 1864. The present work was undertaken in 1863, the year that he became a Royal Scottish Academician, and shows his more fluid mature style.