This picture is an example of a "Problem Picture", a style of painting popular in late Victorian times This Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_picture gives some more details. One of the points of such paintings is that they are deliberately ambiguous so we can read in lots of different things - for example it is not clear who is confessing - is it the man or the woman, and even less so what is being confessed. And without the title, would we even think of confession? What if it was called " Shame" or " A sudden shock"
Another well known example of the puzzle picture is Millais "Trust me" http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/picture.aspx?id=7441&name=trust-me
So, we can make up lots of different stories that fit the picture.
The woman is relaxed, and leaning toward the man, so she seems to be friendly, even intimate, but the mans face is hidden though he appears shocked or upset as his hand is up to his face.
Has he confessed something and she is comforting him? This would fit with the Victorian vision of womanhood as the " Angel in the House" Interestingly her body language is 'active' while his body language is 'passive' She leans towards him, he seems to be shying away
Has -she- confessed something, which has upset or stunned him - I do not think her expression of body language would fit this?
And what is the relationship between them? They look about the same age, he is perhaps a little older, so he could easily be a Husband. He may perhaps be a male admirer, though even in the late Victorian period it woud be a little risque for a (middle class) female to be unchaperoned in such circumstances, though pictures of a female and her beau do exist from that time.
In the end the whole attraction of such pictures, aside form their intrinsic beauty, is that we weave stories from the image, and wonder which of those stories may be the 'correct' interpretation when in fact none, or all of them are.
I beg to remain,
your humble and obedient servant.
In the City and County of Kingston upon Hull
On the Feast day of St. Vulganius
In this year of grace 2009