Hersent is best known for his scenes from modern history and literature, which present sentimental subjects using the dramatic compositions and highly finished academic style that his predecessors had reserved for images from Greek and Roman history. Hersent’s paintings of royal scenes met with particular success in the Restoration French Bourbon court, following the expulsion of Napoleon.
Hersent painted the primary version of this scene (destroyed in the sack of 1848) for the Duc d’Orléans (the future King Louis-Philippe) following the restoration of France’s Bourbon monarchy after the expulsion of Napoleon. The subject, Gustave Vasa, the sixteenth-century "father of Sweden," is remembered for separating Sweden from the Kalmar Union.
Gustavus Wasa received a medal and became a public sensation when Hersent exhibited it at the Salon of 1819 (the Salon at which Géricault debuted The Raft of the Medusa). The primary version of Hersent’s painting was destroyed in the sack of 1848; the Mead’s reduced-scale replica offers an invaluable record of the appearance of Hersent’s lost masterpiece.