A French naval artillery officer, d'Hastrel sailed with the French fleet on Le Cerf for the River Plate in 1839. He served as aide-de-camp to Admiral Leblanc for whom he painted a series of important views of Montevideo (see Iconografia de Montevideo, Montevideo, 1976, pp. 120-28). After working on the fortifications at Montevideo for General Rivera, serving on the blocade of the River Plate and sketching in Uruguay and Argentina, he sailed on Le Cerf for Rio de Janeiro in November 1840, staying briefly before returning to France in March 1841. His sketches in Rio were published in an album of lithographs titled 'Rio de Janeiro o Souvenirs do Bresil, dessinés d'après nature et dediés a S.A.R. Madame la Princesse de Joinvillle', including a view of the 'Praia de D. Manuel' which relates closely to the present composition.
D'Hastrel's view looks north from the Hotel Pharoux (formerly the school and church of the Jesuits and by the 1880s the Cata Preta nursing home) on the left towards the Largo do Paço (Palace Square), Mestre Valentim's fountain and the twin towers of the Candelaria.
For the changing topography of this site, the historic waterfront and Palace Square of Rio de Janeiro, see G. Ferrez, A Praça 15 de Novembro, antigo Largo do Carmos, Rio de Janeiro, 1978.