Presenting one of the most celebrated compositions of the so-called 'Golden Age' of French painting, this picture is based on the painting by Charles Le Brun commissioned by Louis XIV in 1660 and now in the Château de Versailles. Le Brun was First Painter to the King and, in 1648, co-founder of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. This fine reduction, possibly by Le Brun's pupil Nicolas-Pierre Loir (Paris 1632-1679), fully conveys the Le Brun's interest in facial expression, codified in his 'Têtes d'expression'.
The subject is drawn from the Greek historian Cleitarchus of Alexandria (4th century B.C.): having conquered the Persian King Darius III, Alexander the Great displays his magnanimity by sparing the mother, wives and daughters of Darius.
As Mrs. Jameson correctly noted in her history of the Grosvenor Gallery, the price Sir Richard Grosvenor paid for this picture in 1758 was 'considered very high at that period', and serves as a testimony to the very great esteem that Le Brun has always commanded.