This drawing from the artist's studio album is related to the painting Napoleon and His General Staff in Egypt (ca. 1867-68), which depicts Napoleon and his troops riding camels through the desert, accompanied by several Bedouins on horseback (fig. 1). According to the writer Earl Shinn, who included a photogravure of the painting in his book Gérôme, A Collection of the Works of J. L. Gérôme in One Hundred Photogravures, the somber general is retreating from the bloody and failed siege of Acre, Syria: 'mounted on his ungainly beast of burden, in this burning and dreary march... with his discontented and defeated army around him...[Napoleon] experiences, for the first time, the bitterness of disappointed ambition.'
(fig. 1) Jean-Léon Gérôme, Napoleon and His General Staff in Egypt, oil on canvas, 1867-68, Private Collection.
(fig. 2) Auguste Girandon, Jean Léon Gerôme in his Studio.