It is an oil on canvas painting showing women trying to fill a big pot of water. They take turns to empty their water jars, two emptying their water pots, two waiting in line and the fifth one walking away. However, the bigger pot has holes, making it hard to fill it to the brim. Their clothes depict aristocracy, which is a twist as they are for servant owners, not servants. The painting reminiscences the punishment melted on the daughters of King Danaus. After killing their husbands, who were the sons of their rival King, Danaus's daughters were sentenced to death and condemned to fill a huge water pot with a hole. Only one among the 50 daughters on King Danaus didn't kill her husband.

The original painting measured 60.7 inches high and 43.7 inches high. However, there are two variations of The Danaides, one done in 1902 and the second painted in 1904. James Murray was the first owner of The Danaides painting before selling it to the Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1927. The second version is currently the more notable of the two. Discovered in 1989 and sold to a private art collector, the second version was bolder, with vivid graphics.

Born in Italy to English parents, J. W. Waterhouse first adopted the Academic painting style before switching to mythologies. With time, he embraced the Arthurian style, which opened up the lives of aristocrats. Most of the Waterhouse paintings came from the Arthurian style. His most known subject was The Lady of Shallot and the Ophelia Paintings. Some of the paintings done nearly the same time as The Danaides include The Crystal Ball (1902), The Missal (1902), Boreas (1903), Psyche Opening the Golden Box (1903) and Windflowers (1903). In total, he did over 118 paintings. Besides painting, he was an art teacher, rising to the position of a full academician in 1895. He would teach at the St. John’s Wood Art School and later became a member of the Royal Academy Council. Most of his artworks are in the Royal Art Academy in London.