There were Neo-Classical and Orientalist influences in much of the artist's early work, and we can see examples of that within this painting. Waterhouse was born in Italy but lived most of his life in the UK but did understand other cultures a little better than some of his fellow artists. In the case of this painting he captures a North-African atmosphere as slaves sit patiently by the side of a street. Two women and an elderly man look on, whilst the background is filled with architecture that would be typical for this theme, with cracked stone walls and a beautiful archway with steps leading into darkness. This is not the most ambitious of paintings, and perhaps Waterhouse was being cautious at this point in his career, still conscious that he had lots to learn as his career developed.
We can already see, even in this early piece, that Waterhouse was entirely comfortable in the genre of portraiture and that he liked to produce scenes of interest rather than working with more formal poses, where models might sit directly in front of the viewer. Although the cultures and objects might change at a later date, he would continue to deliver attractive female models into his paintings for many decades to come. Most artists tend to take a good period of time before they arrive upon their favourite approach, and in their early years will be much more heavily influenced by others around them as they slowly start to build confidence in their own work.
This item is believe to now reside within a private collection and that tends to be the case for most of this artist's lesser known paintings and drawings. There was a large auction shortly after his death in which most of his possessions were sold off by his wife. Some of these were not documented is as much detail as we might have liked and sold as groups of artworks, leading to them being dispersed right across the country and eventually abroad in some cases. This has made it difficult to produce an entirely comprehensive survey of the artist's work, with drawings regularly resurfacing at auction having never been seen before. Thankfully, some of the highlights best work remains in public collections and so can be accessed by the general public all year round. Another painter to look out for is Alma Tadema, who contributed the likes of Unconscious Rivals, Sappho and Alcaeus and The Baths of Caracalla.