Alfred Normand, son of the architect Louis Normand, won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1846, opening the way for him to spend several years at the Villa Medici in the Italian capital. Since 1778, the Academy of Architecture had required its students to produce studies of the monuments of Antiquity. Normand found one of the main sources of inspiration for these works in Pompeii.
Like his contemporaries, he discovered there the remains of a colourful and informal classical society, very different from the coldness of the temples of Antiquity. Moreover, he devoted his third year submission to the House of the Faun, and also produced many photographs of the sleeping town at the end of his stay in 1851. This watercolour served to complete these different approaches.
Far from being an architectural study or a faithful record drawing of these locations, this view of the ruins, with its interplay of shadows and succinct evocation of the polychromy of Pompeii, is suffused with Romanticism and nostalgia. Normand's great pictorial talent is demonstrated in the great importance he accorded to drawing, so much so that he himself took on responsibility for this task within his agency. A few years later, he would revive the memory of Pompeii in a prestigious building that has now disappeared: his Pompeian house for Prince Napoleon, in Avenue Montaigne.