Described by John Singer Sargent as one of the greatest living draughtsmen, Aleksandr Iakovlev was educated at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and actively participated in the Mir iskusstva group. Having settled in Paris in 1919, he was chosen as the official painter of the Expdition Citron Centre Afrique (La Croisire Noire) in 1924, and of the trans-Asia expedition La Croisire Jaune in 1931, organised by the car manufacturer Citron. Iakovlev sketched and drew prolifically along the way. Large oil paintings were executed from sketches on his return to Paris. La Croisire Jaune left Beirut in April 1931 crossing Iraq, Persia, Afghanistan, the Himalayas, the Gobi desert, Mongolia to Beijing and then on to Saigon in Indochina the following year. Many of the pictures were exhibited at the Galerie Jean Charpentier in Paris in 1933.