As the leading expatriate portrait painter of his day, Sargent had a reputation for depicting the elegance and aloofness of his upper class sitters. In this portrait however, he concentrated on the personal relationship between his subjects rather than the social trappings of their class. When this work was shown in a 1924 exhibition of Sargent's work, a critic praised it as a masterful interpretation of old age. The reviewer noted how convincing Sargent captured the nature of the couple's long marriage in their clasped hands and the subtle inclination of their heads toward one another.
John White Field and his wife, Eliza Peters Field, were wealthy members of an international social set that included some of the most noted writers and artists of the late 19th century. Among their acquaintances were literary figures such as Robert Browning, Charles Eliot Norton, and James Russell Lowell, and the sculptor William Wetmore Story. The couple were avid art collectors and acquired works by both European and American artists. In addition to this work, the Fields donated family portraits by Rembrandt Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully to the Academy collection.