Ernst travelled extensively in the Ottoman Empire and north Africa, sketching and photographing copiously and collecting props of all kinds to feature in his finished paintings on his return to Fontenay-aux-Roses outside Paris where he had his studio. The present work abounds with objects, from Safavid vases, one with a brass or bronze neck, the other with a turquoise glaze; Andalusian or Damascene tiles; a Qajar Ghalian cup; an Ottoman tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, possibly ivory inlaid box; Ottoman babouche shoes; and large incised tombak chalice.
Ernst was a seminal member of the group of Vienna-trained Austrian artists - Ludwig Deutsch, Raphael von Ambros, and Charles Wilda among them - who settled in France to specialise in Orientalist subjects. Following his studies at the Vienna Academy under Anselm Feuerbach, Ernst moved to Paris, where, in 1883, he met Osman Hamdy Bey, the French-trained Ottoman painter who was among the artists who inspired him to take up the genre. This is particularly evident in the present work, whose scale and Turkish subject matter echo those of Hamdy Bey's greatest works.
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