Alma-Tadema specialised in scenes from everyday life in Ancient Rome. Frequent visits to Italy meant that he had great knowledge of the classical period. He was famous for his representation of textures and the translucent quality of marble. This subject, depicting two young women, is typical of his work.
The Victorians were fascinated by the privileged life of the wealthy, as described in the ancient writings Ovid and Juvenal. The shelf above the girls’ heads is littered with luxurious objects such as perfume, hair pins and looking glasses. These suggest a lifestyle of self-indulgence and pleasure.