Zorn depicts the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque in Algiers, Algeria. According to Cook’s Practical Guide to Algiers, Algeria, and Tunisia (1904), 'With the exception of the Djama el Kebir…this is the oldest religious building in Algiers…. The marabout [popular saint] Abd er Rahman et Thalebi was born in 1387 and died in 1471. The mosque was built between these dates and contains his tomb, over which are hung silk banners, ostrich eggs, etc., and on which lights are kept burning.' Auguste Renoir had painted a very similar view of the Abderrahman mosque five years earlier, in 1882.
The watercolour's first owner was the German-born, London-based banker and industrialist Ernest Cassel, one of Zorn's earliest and most important patrons during his London years (1881-87), and whose introductions to members of high society led to numerous portrait commissions on both sides of the Channel, including Cassel's own (fig. 1). It is possible that the present work, which would have held sentimental value to Zorn having been made during his honeymoon, was a gift to Cassel in recognition of his unwavering support.
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