Decamps specialised in scenes of the Muslim East, which is the probable setting for this picture. He painted the subject of beggars on several occasions. Here, three beggar women sit and gossip, sheltering from the heat of the day. A fourth sits in a shady doorway, holding her baby on her knee. Splashes of sunlight strike the lime-washed walls on either side of the door. Although it is a Romanticised image, the picture could be read in the context of social conditions in France in the late 1840s. Starvation among the peasantry was common, aggravated by the great famine of 1846-7 and the political upheaval of the 1848 Revolution. Intentionally or not, Decamps has given the beggar women in the painting red, white and blue scarfs, recalling the colours of the tricolour flag.