Rudolf Ernst staged this scene in his studio, basing it on his visits to Turkey and North Africa. His studio, crammed full of artefacts he had collected on his travels, resembled a stage-set. The paintings he created there were visual anthologies, combining elements of these props with his own sketches and professional photographs. Almost photographic in their details, his canvases are notable for their polished paint surfaces. The present work perfectly encapsulates the combination of detail and imagined setting: the carefully rendered and sumptuous surfaces of tiles, carpets, stone, architecture and intense light, are crafted together to create an overall composition artfully designed to dazzle an audience fascinated by the Orient. The technique of setting lavishly dressed figures against intricate backdrops was a favourite of Ernst, one which permitted him to show off his skill at rendering different exotic textures and surfaces - from the richness of clothing to the reflective properties of tiles. In fact, typical of Ernst he reproduces the same Iznick-style inspired tiles that we see in two other works from this important private collection, The manicure (lot 7), and On the terrace (see lot 4).
Interiors of mosques and prayer scenes were favourite subjects for the Orientalist painters such as Ernst. Similarly to the harem (lot 7), the mosque was a sacred space that was off-limits to foreigners, because the representation was percieved as all the more exotic. The central figure, dressed in a rich traditional costume, is engaged in prayer and turned towards Mecca. In the background Ernst has placed the traditional minbar (the pulpit) from which the imam delivers his Friday sermons.