Scenes of rural poverty and philanthropic kindness were a feature of British art in the latter part of the 18th century. This painting is unusual in featuring identifiable contemporaries rather than generic figures. The well-dressed sitters are the children of Sir Francis Ford a wealthy plantation owner and politician. Facing calls for the abolition of the slave trade, pro-slavery campaigners would claim that the poor in England lived worse lives than slaves in the West Indies. This painting may well be intended to draw attention to that idea.