William Rivett (Gainsborough Gallery) Ltd., London
Purchased from the above by the present owner in 1955
In A Captive Audience, a Cairene crowd gathers in the shade of a dusty street to hear a sheik preaching, entranced by his hypnotic presence. In the background the minarets of the Madrasa of Sultan Qaytbay (the Mamluk ruler of Egypt and Syria between 1468-96), located in the eastern cemetery, gleam in the bright sunlight.
The cross section of types, ages and genders in varied dress not only displays Ferraris' skill in minutely rendering the exact features, but is a visual documentation of the vibrancy of life on the streets of Cairo at the turn of the century. Exhibiting the artist's gift for using different light sources to striking effect, the figures in the foreground stand out for their proximity and detail, and are set into relief by the brilliantly illuminated background.
Ferraris's fastidious attention to details such as the garb of the curious onlookers and the intricate decoration of the architectural elements reflects the influence of Ferraris' former teacher, Jean-Léon Gérôme, at whose encouragement Ferraris travelled to Cairo in the winter of 1885 in the company of Ludwig Deutsch.
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