The minute detail and photographic realism of the painting were founded in part on Deutsch's rigorous academic training in Paris under history painter Jean-Paul Laurens, and in part on the extensive collection of photographs and objects he amassed in Cairo, which he synthesised into his paintings on his return to Paris. From the mother-of-pearl inlaid kursi cabinets and Syrian pendant lamp to the Persian Sauj Bulagh rug with its mina-khani blossom and trellis design, the myriad of textures and surfaces, hard and soft, are observed with exacting verisimilitude. Which mosque forms the setting of the work is not known; besides the Ptolmaic granite pillar, clues are, it seems deliberately, scant. For the lack of architectural detail and the simplicity of the backdrop serve to focus the viewer on the straightforward and unencumbered prayer that so captivated Deutsch and other Orientalist painters used to Christian worship with its attendant clergy and accoutrements.
Deutsch trained at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna but settled in Paris in 1878, where he honed his highly academic style. He first travelled to Egypt in 1883, from which time on Orientalist subjects dominated his oeuvre, fuelled by demand from avid collectors. Deutsch's Egyptian subjects met with huge critical acclaim: in 1900 he was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle, and later the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur.
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