A favorite painter of Napoleon III and one who had enjoyed commissions from King Louis II of Bavaria and the Tsar of Russia, Cabanel was widely hailed as one of the foremost "pompier" artists. His work was often compared favorably with that of Bouguereau (see ) and Gerome (see ). Cabanel had begun painting at the age of eleven when he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier. From there he went on to study in 1839 under Picot at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was Picot who impressed opon Cabanel the importance of choosing historical and literary subjects for his paintings and this was a lesson that Cabanel faithfully adhered to throughout his career as an artist. In The Merchant of Venice we can see his attention to historic verisimiltude in rendering the costume and the setting.