The procession celebrates the victory of the Roman general Aemilius Paulus over King Perseus of Macedon in 168 B.C. Aemilius Paulus rides in triumph on the gold cart to the right followed by prisoners, among whom is Perseus with his family. The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with its hundred steps dominates the background.
The picture, with more than one hundred fully realized figures and a dozen horses, was begun in 1787 and presented as Vernet's reception piece to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1789. It was exhibited at the Salons of 1789 and 1791.