Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, And the musk of the rose is blown.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in Maud
The woman in the garden is a common theme of Victorian poetry and painting, often representing beauty and romantic love. Magdalene Brookfield, a family friend of Julia Margaret Cameron, is the dark-haired woman strolling through this garden. Her pyramid-shaped figure is centered in the photograph, and so is Cameron's focus. Brookfield's face, hand, and a part of a nearby bush are sharply defined. The rest of the image blends into soft-focus, emphasizing her mysterious, pointing gesture.
Perhaps Magdalene represents the subject of a man's obsession, as in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1855 poem, Maud, in which the ephemeral qualities of love and a woman's beauty are ascribed to nature. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, the woman in nature becomes part of a moral theme of the virtuous woman versus the fallen woman. Cameron probably made this outdoor, full-figure study at the London home of her sister, Sara Prinsep.