Cui Bo, like many other painters from the provinces, came to the capital to seek an appointment at court. Known as a genius at painting but otherwise eccentric and inept at practical matters, the emperor Shenzong required very little of him other than to paint for him personally.
This painting has the title "Double Happiness," a reference to the pronunciation of the Chinese word for magpie. "Two magpies" was pronounced the same as "two happinesses," so a painting of two magpies was a pictorial metaphor for double happiness and thus an appropriate subject for a painting to be given to someone to express congratulations, especially for a wedding. In many other cases as well paintings of birds and flowers gain meaning from homophones of the objects depicted.
The painting is signed and dated 1061, making it the earliest such signed and dated painting.