A student of Hébert and Cabanal, this recipient of the Prix de Rome in 1873 for Captives de juifs à Babylone pursued a perfectly flawless official career as a popular history painter. Born in Nancy in 1850, Morot's two great Salon paintings: Rezonville le 16 aout, 1870 (Salon 1886) and the Luxembourg Museum's la Bataille de Reichshoffen (Salon 1887) assured him the state commissions for the decoration of the Hôtel de Ville in Nancy as well as the mural of Danses Françaises a travers les ages at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. In 1888 Morot married the daughter of the 19th century's greatest pompier - Jean-Léon Gérôme - and in 1898 replaced Gustave Moreau at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, a career culminating in a Legion d'Honneur in 1910. As many painters before him, Morot travelled to the Orient and returned with exotic souvenirs, amongst them a collection of wild animals. Henri Gervex in his 'Souvenirs' describes Morot's atelier at 6 rue Val de Grâce: '...j'étais plongé dans de profondes réflexions lorsque, tout à coup, un grand bruit des chaînes, me surprend. Je sens une main qui me frappe sur l'épauls, je me retourne, et à ma stupeur epouvantée, je vois un singe, un chimpanze qui me regarde avec curiosité! J'avoue que sur le moment j'ai été péniblement impressionné d'autant que, tout à coup, je perçus près de moi le miaulement de deux jeunes lionceaux'.
The Retraite de St. Jean d'Acre (prairial an VII) exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1893 depicts the retreat of Napoléon Bonaparte and his troops after they failed to take this ancient fortress of the Crusades during the Syrian campaign. The events of 1799 are pure historical orientalism, where France's past is set against the backdrop of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, replete with camels. Général Kléber was present at Acre as were the Général Lannes, the Général Bessières (both Kléber and Bessières were later Marechals of France) and Eugène de Beauharnais (Napoléon's brother-in-law). Both Lannes and Beauharnais were wounded in the battle. In the present painting Napoléon strides ahead of his fellow generals, all identifiable by their tricolour sash. It is possibly Général Lannes astride the grey horse and Général Kléber in the red trousers walking next to Eugène de Beauharnais, wearing the blue collar of the aide-de-camp. Accompanied by their troops, the 'Grenadiers d'infanterie de ligne', they return to Cario, having lost both Acre and the entire French fleet to Nelson, before going on to defeat the Turks in Syria.