The allusion is to Odessius' wife Penelope who waited for him during his travels after the Trojan war. She fended off unwanted suitors by weaving and unweaving a burial shroud for Odessius's father, a task she said she must finish before considering re-marriage. Here the needle work stands in for the shroud and Gari Melchers' wife Corinne represents Penelope.
Melchers painted this work the drawing room at Schuylenburg in Egmond aan den Hoef, Holland. Melchers' At Home, Winged Victory below has the same location including the wall paper and the bust above the fireplace.
Lee M. Edwards remarks that:
At Home (Winged Victory) is one of a number of works painted by Melchers between 1904 and 1909 which celebrate the comforts of upper-class domesticity. Seated at the left is the artist's young wife, Corinne Lawton Mackall (1880-1955), a former art student whom he married in 1903, while an unidentified figure is posed at the right. The setting is the drawing room at Schuylenburg in Egmond aan den Hoef, Holland. After the painter George Hitchcock vacated it in 1904, Melchers, who worked in an attached studio there until 1909, used its drawing room as the setting for several of his most successful interiors including The Green Lamp (c. 1905, private collection), Penelope (1910, Corcoran Gallery Of Art) and The Open Fire (1905-1910, Belmont). -- Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting, 1840-1910 by Lee M. Edwards, 1986
It is said that the maid in the painting is Hitchcock's domestic servant.