Ferdinand Max Bredt was regarded as one of Germany's foremost Orientalist painters in the 19th century however his works now rarely appear on the market. He visited Greece, Turkey and Tunisia and the verisimilitude of his paintings reflects his keen eye for detail.
In the present work Bredt portrays a harem beauty resting by a fountain in an open courtyard as her attendant plays the lute for her pleasure. She reclines comfortably against a pillow on a woven mat and is dressed in richly colored silks and is bejeweled with anklets and gold bracelets that are befitting of her status as the harem favorite. In the background one can glimpse a servant approaching with two glasses of mint tea for the women, while in the shade of the patio other servants spin wool. A precise draftsman, Bredt not only takes care to pose the figures naturalistically but also to record the myriad architectural details of the courtyard with its arched doorway, painted columns, richly tiled and elaborately carved plaster walls, and sumptuously marbled floor. Similarly, the dwarf antelope and lush flora underscore the exoticism of the scene. The subject of the forbidden world of the harem was frequently depicted by Western artists during the 19th century but in In the Courtyard of the Harem Bredt's goes beyond mere voyeureism to focus on the relationships between the women and the roles of the attendants privileged to enter this cloistered world.