Lewis arrived in Egypt in 1841. Over the next ten years he produced a large number of sketches which he used as reference for future work.
This sketch is a portrait of Muhemet Ali, who became pasha (governor) of Egypt in 1805. An Albanian in the service of the Ottoman Empire, he was originally sent to Egypt to fight the French. However, he reformed the army and navy along European lines, and eventually, in the 1830s, turned them against the Turks to secure autonomy both for himself and Egypt.