Gauffier demonstrates his fine narrative skills in this small, colourful and highly polished painting. It reflects contemporary interest in Ancient Egypt. The subject is based on Plutarch's 'Life' of Mark Anthony which describes Octavian's meeting with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra after his victory over Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian remains unconvinced by Cleopatra's pleas of innocence, which then turn to flattery as she compares him with his great uncle, Julius Caesar. The painting was commissioned by the Compte d'Angiviller, the influential superintendent of the king's art works, and intended as a pendant for a painting by Jacques-Louis David.