In Keller’s rendering of the dramatic scene from the Arabian Nights, the heroine Sheherazade skilfully avoids execution from the vengeful Sultan Schariar by enthralling him with her tales.
Since discovering the deceit of his wife, the Sultan Schariar spent each night with a virgin and the following day executed her as an act of revenge. After three thousand virgins had been killed, Sheherazade volunteered to spend the night with the Sultan, despite her father’s protestations. When in the Sultan’s chamber, she began to tell the Sultan a story. The present painting depicts the moment when dawn is breaking and Sheherazade artfully leaves the story in suspense, gaining another night to finish the tale. Night after night she kept the Sultan enrapt with her tales and was thus saved from execution. After one thousand and one nights she became his Queen.
Keller painted at least three versions of this subject and a print dating to 1883 was reproduced in the journal Uber Land und Meer, in 1884 (fig. 1). A smaller version is catalogued in Michael Koch, Ferdinand Keller: Leben und Werk, no. 126, 1978
digi ref. 410D06104 Fig. 1, Etching of Keller's 1883 version of the present work.
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