One of the young women is reading a poem, perhaps a love poem, to the other who is reclining on pillows, while behind the two girls are medallions of the muses The atmosphere of intimacy and seclusion is emphasised by the brilliant sunlit city outside, just visible through the window. The private world of the two women is, however, very much part of ancient Rome, from which every detail is taken. Their dresses are imaginatively copied from Roman sculptures, particularly the fabric of the girl lying down. Alma-Tadema had extraordinary skill in painting draperies, using the folds of the material to indicate the beauty of the bodies beneath. The sun shines brightly on the reclining figure, drawing attention to the girl’s shapely form. The seated girl’s dress is thin and translucent so the outline of her legs, shoulders and arms are deliberately visible beneath.