The painting portrays an upper class or palace lady, paused for a moment as she leans on a garden rock while reading. The environment is closely defined by foreground rocks and banana palms while other banana leaves close in the upper portion of the picture. The effect is to suggest that the lady lacks purpose and passion in her life, and in that sense it may be seen as an overt appeal to our emotions and to at least male attention.
Ch’en P’eng, called Le-ju, is not recorded in standard biographical sources but he would seem to have been active during the second half of the 19th century. A pair of extant ancestor portraits by Ch’en are clearly of that period. Although we know nothing of his life, some degree of education is implied by his selection here of a poem written by the famous Sung dynasty female poet, Li Ch’ing-chao, the Tsui-hua Yin.