Belly travelled to Egypt three times, in 1850, 1856, and 1857. The Gazelle Hunt was most likely worked up from sketches Belly made in 1856 during his excursion into the Sinai desert with fellow painters Narcisse Berchère and Jean-Léon Gérôme.
'From the wells of Moses we’ve followed a large plain, partly of sand, partly covered with large pebbles… On the left in the far distance, a chain of low, harsh, fractured mountains. This vast landscape, arid and abandoned, is always of the suavest colour; it seems that nature, so severe here and offering nothing that can refresh the senses, has been provided by way of compensation with the most seductive qualities of light and colour,' Belly wrote to his mother on 30 April 1856 (quoted in Conrad de Mandach, 'Léon Belly', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 4th series, vol. 9, February 1913, p. 144).
Belly's experiences in Egypt were the inspiration for his greatest works, most famously his monumental Pilgrims going to Mecca of 1861 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris).
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