Born in Montpellier in 1823, Alexandre Cabanel was one of the leading academic, or "pompier", artists of his time, and was much favoured throughout his career by both Napoleon III and Louis II of Bavaria, as well as being patronised by the Tsar and Tsarina, a commission he was unable to accept due to failing health. Cabanel's talent was recognised at an early age, and at fourteen he was offered the post of teacher and drawing master at the college of Saint Pons. Cabanel refused the offer, however, and two years later enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts to study under Picot. In 1844 he exhibited his first work at the Paris Salon (Agonie du Christ au jardin des Oliviers, no. 251) to praise from both artists and critics alike.