Between 1845 – 1851, the Romanian Neo-classicist artist Gheorghe Tăttărescu lived in Italy studying painting. It was a major period of political upheaval for that country, and the issues of national unity and independence from foreign powers were themes that resonated powerfully with the Romanian.

On the first of January 1848, revolution broke out in Palermo. The ‘wave’ reached Romania in March. Among the Romanian revolutionaries’ demands were: the formation of the national Romanian state, educational reform, the improvement of the peasant economic situation, the lifting of censorship, and the replacement of the Parliament by a more progressive and representative body. Even though the revolutionaries lost the battle and their leaders were sent into exile, only a decade later, during Cuza’s reign, most of these aspirations were realized.

On 30 May 1848, in Rome, Tăttărescu entered the competition 'Concorso artistico dal Panteon' [The Artistic Competition of Pantheon] held every five years by the Congregazione Artistica dei Virtuosi al Panteon, the highest artistic institution in the city, and sponsored by the Pope. He was awarded the first prize medal for his religious painting representing a scene from the Old Testament – that of Simeon and Levi rescuing their sister Dinah kidnapped by Shechem and King Hamor (the title of the painting - which in Romanian reads: Simeon şi Levi salvând pe sora lor Dina răpită de Sichem şi de regele Hemor).

In August the same year Tăttărescu went to Florence where he researched the paintings in the Pitti and Uffizi Galleries. On 7 January, 1849 he returned to Rome, rented a studio in Via Mario di Fiori no 8, and made studies for his allegorical work Deşteptarea României [The Awakening of Romania]. By obtaining the First Prize in Rome at the moment the first news of the [Romanian] revolution arrived in Italy, the artist and his work made his native country known and appreciated. That was the true value of his painting.

When the Romanian government opened the first art museum in Bucharest (National Painting Gallery - Pinacoteca Statului) in December 1850, ‘The Awaking of Romania’ was the first work to be displayed (it has as an inventory number ‘1’). Thus, the work that first received international recognition was also the work that was most recognised in his own country.