This watercolour, an outstanding yet hitherto undiscovered example of Luigi Ademollo's superb talent as a draughtsman, may be dated to the years of his successful career in the art world in Florence.
His singularly expressive, emphatic, moralising and deliberately antique style is unique in the context of Tuscan Neoclassicism.
The scene, in which the artist's uniquely incisive penwork so skilfully captures the dynamism of nude bodies in movement, may reliably be interpreted as depicting the Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great was pitted against Achaemenid Emperor Darius III on 1 October 331 BC. The army of the Corinthian League under the command of the Macedonian King clashed with Darius III's Persian army close to Gaugamela, in the vicinity of what is now Mosul in Iraq. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Alexander carried the day thanks to his superior tactics and superbly trained army. The victory marked a decisive moment for the Greek alliance and eventually led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.
The challenging project of decorating Villa Grazzini (or del Pozzino) in the Castello area just outside Florence with the scenographic subject of the Triumph of Alexander the Great in Babylon was devised in 1790. The subject, frescoed in one of the villa's galleries, has unfortunately been whitewashed over, but we know of it from a series of photographs mentioned by scholars  and now in the photographic library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.
Ademollo made Alexander the Great the leading character in his decorative enterprises on more than one occasion, but the most interesting fact is unquestionably his involvement in the stage design for the opera Alessandro nelle Indie performed under the direction of Pietro Metastasio in 1787, thus we may reasonanly argue that this watercolour is the preparatory cartoon for that important piece of theatrical design. The cartoon is then likely to have been reused, after revisitation and embellishment with ornamental details, for the sumptuous frescoes in Villa Grazzini.
 G.L. MELLINI, Apertura per Luigi Ademollo in "Arte illustrata", n. 57, 1974, pp. 58-71