Napoleon crossed the Alps in May 1800 and in June won his great victory at Marengo in Italy over the Austrians. This painting is a sober and accurate record of the event showing the mule and peasant who actually took the leader over the Great St Bernard Pass, trailed by his troops on the mountain-side behind. Delaroche specialised in painting momentous historical events as if they were scenes from everyday life. This picture was intended as a corrective to the flamboyant, propagandist rendering of the same event by Napoleon’s own artists. Another version of this composition, in no way superior to the Walker's painting, is at the Louvre, Paris. Both pictures and many other Napoleonic subjects by Delaroche were commissioned by a group of British collectors obsessed with the Napoleonic legend.