An official is taking a late morning break from his office work, and is looking with great affection at his fosterling that has just produced a red flower, almost as if he was in love with it. The cactus is returning the affectionate feeling; it does not grow towards the light but in the direction of its foster father. The large Biedermeier clock symbolizes the passing of time; the official is quite beyond his youth, and the cactus might mirror his hope that he could still experience a late May in his life. The only hint at the type of work the official does are the bundles of papers that are lying in heaps on the floor. Perhaps those at the wall are ready to be taken to the archives, while the bundles in the foreground must still be checked.
In his own handwritten sales record of this painting, Spitzweg added the words "sage: Staatshämorrhoidarius". This refers to a title of a satirical picture story by Franz von Pocci who was a contemporary of Spitzweg in Munich. The story caricatures a civil servant who suffers from "pains below" because he sits all day.