Don Maxime del Campo, Chile (died 1935); R.E. Gravel, Detroit; Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 22 May 1997, lot 68, where acquired by the present owner.
The present work would appear to be a complete oil sketch for a larger finished canvas of the subject, painted in 1811 and exhibited at the Salon of 1812 (no.583), formerly in the collection of Louis XVIII and now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. 6228). Lethière intended to paint a series of four works, each depicting a great event from Roman history. In the end, however, he only painted Brutus Condemning his Sons to Death and The Death of Virginia, also in the Louvre.
In 1812 when the larger finished version of the present work was exhibited at the Salon, Lethière had been Director of the Académie de France in Rome for five years, a position he attained with the help of Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon and Prince of Canino, to whom Lethière had been appointed artistic adviser in the early 19th century. Bonaparte's generosity may have arisen from his having not only conducted an illicit affair with Lethière's wife, but also from having provided her with an illegitimate son. Lethière's apparent tolerance of both his wife's and patron's behaviour, furthermore, may stem from the fact that he himself was illegitimate, the son of a white government official and a freed black slave.