In 1817, Cogniet won the Prix de Rome for history painting, a state prize that allowed him to live and work at the Villa Medici for a period of five years. The helmet, shield, and swords depicted on the left wall near the doors that lead to the studio refer to the expectation that Cogniet would produce a history painting each year to send back to Paris for review. On the back of this painting the artist wrote (in French): "My room at the reception of my first letter from my family, 1817." The open window with the landscape view may reveal Cogniet's true interest, however, for shortly after arriving in Rome he wrote: "You ask me what struck me the most, ancient sculpture, painting of the masters, or the physiognomy of the Romans. What struck me more than all that were the beauties of nature, not only of the country I now live in, but of all those I passed through since the French frontier."