The Negro Scipio belonged to Claude Monet, who owned thirteen other works by Cezanne. He kept it in his bedroom with his favourite paintings, for he
considered it to be un morceau de premiere force ('a work of the greatest strength').
A comparison with Mary Magdalene, a large work painted by Cezanne during the same period, bears out the suggestion that The Negro Scipio may have been the inspiration for the painting now in the musee d'Orsay. Both show a figure in a similar position and have the same colour range - blue clothes, a dark background and a large light area to the right. However, while the figure of Mary Magdalene is an expression of despair and sorrow, Scipio appears merely to be a study in anatomy, with, unusually for the 1860s and 1870s, no underlying narrative.