During the 1808 Paris Salon, the French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte honored John Vanderlyn with a gold medal for this painting. Trained in France to paint in the Neoclassical style, Vanderlyn often used themes drawn from classical history and mythology to reflect the political ideals of the newly established American republic.
The subject in this work is Caius Marius, a six-time elected Roman consul. In the second century BC Marius led a failed attempt to seize control of Rome. Defeated, he fled to Carthage, in North Africa. Vanderlyn depicts Marius already in exile, brooding among ruins.
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