In the late 1850s and 1860s Sandys painted biblical, mythological and literary subjects. He was great friends with Rossetti and his female portraits were often inspired by his work, with hints of sexual desire.
This painting is connected to an illustration Sandys made for the periodical 'Once a Week' in 1866. Entitled 'Helen and Cassandra', the scene showed Cassandra berating Helen as Troy burns in the background. Helen chews on a lock of hair in the manner of a spoiled child. This composition portrays the same sulky sideways glance and lowered forehead as seen in the illustration.