Cornelia was the mother of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, who later became celebrated land reformers in Republican Rome. Shown the collection of jewels belonging to a guest in her house, Cornelia pointed to the young Gracchi, declaring, 'There, madam, the richest jewels in my house.' The subject is ultimately from Valerius Maximus (4: 4), but a more immediate source for Peyron was probably Charles Rollin's 'Histoire Romaine' (1752).
The painting, like 'Belisarius receiving Hospitality from a Peasant', was made as an example of virtue. Both paintings are connected with larger pictures of the same subjects by Peyron now in Toulouse which were commissioned by the Abbé de Bernis (1752 - 1824), while the artist was in Rome.