Along with Tiepolo and Piazzetta, Giambattista Pittoni is considered one of the most important history painters of the Venetian Rococo. He originally trained with his uncle, Francesco, before developing his own style, strongly influenced by Antonio Balestra, Sebastiano Ricci and Luca Giordano; his work also reveals an awareness of Tiepolo and French Rococo trends. Pittoni's extant oeuvre is divided more or less equally between religious and secular subjects, the latter often taken, as here, from Classical history and literature.
The Roman general Scipio, having captured the city of New Carthage, was presented with a beautiful young maiden, as part of the spoils of war. Learning that the girl was betrothed, he summoned her fiancé, Allucius, and restored her to him unharmed. When the family of the bride presented Scipio with treasure as thanks for this act of clemency he presented it to the young couple as a wedding dowry, further enhancing his reputation for kindness and generosity.
In addition to the present work four other versions of this scene are known (F. Zava Boccazzi, op. cit., nos. 32, 144, 248 and 273; figs. 275, 288, 289 and 294), all approximately the same size. The earliest would appear to be the version in the Musée du Louvre, which Zava Boccazzi dates after 1732-3 (ibid., pp. 150-1, no. 144), and she considers the present work comparable to that picture on grounds of quality and a similar use of colour, although it differs slightly from the other versions in its more vertical format.