The fellaha (peasant woman) carrying a jug of water, as a reference to the Nile River, is a recurrent theme in Cairene sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar's work. Mokhtar's most famous sculpture, Nahdat Misr (Egypt Awakening), a monumental group in pink granite which originally stood in Midan Bab Al Hadid, but is now exhibited opposite the University Bridge in Cairo, represents a sphinx rising and the unveiling of a peasant woman, as metaphor for the 're-awakening' of Egypt in terms of arts and culture. It was the first monumental granite sculpture to be created in Egypt since Antiquity, yet its innovative modern twist is that instead of representing a ruler as was the tradition, Mokhtar encapsulates an abstract ideal of his contemporary society paired with the rise of national awareness in Egypt, whilst at the same time paying homage to Egypt's unrivalled rich cultural heritage and ensuring its preservation and continuity. The graceful woman symbolises Art, the veil relates to female emancipation and the fellaha embodies Egypt and Egyptian nationalism.
By representing contemporary subjects and bestowing upon them the nobility of the antique, Mokhtar's sculptures symbolically unite the distant past with a longed-for progressive future. The influence of pharaonic art permeates much of Mokhtar's mature work, and coincides with the 1920s artistic trend known as 'Neo-pharaonism', defined by a growing interest in Ancient Egyptian art. Using the language of ancient sculpture, particularly with regards to the mass of forms, the elegant abstraction and the idealisation of shapes and re-inventing this art with a modern vernacular made Mahmoud Mokhtar rightfully earn his place of pioneer of Modern Egyptian art, alongside Alexandrian artists Mahmoud Saïd and Mohamed Naghi.
According to Dr. Emad Abou Ghazi who is currently working on the archives of Mahmoud Mokhtar, the present sculpture was cast several times in different sizes and using different mediums. One of Mokhtar's known techniques was to occasionally dip his bronze sculptures in a silver mix, of which the current lot is a prime example.