Leighton was powerfully attracted to the Middle East, visiting Asia Minor in 1867, Egypt in 1868, and Damascus in 1873. All these expeditions inflected the classicism of his work with an element of oriental fantasy, but that to Damascus gave him particular inspiration. It resulted in two fine interiors Old Damascus: Jew's Quarter, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874, and the picture for which the present lot is a sketch, Portions of the Interior of the Grand Mosque of Damascus (Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston) which appeared at the Royal Academy in 1875 (no. 215). The expedition also led to a series of 'fancy' pictures: Moorish Garden: A Dream of Granada, Music Lesson, and Study: at a Reading Desk, while it found its most permanent expression in the construction of the Arab Hall in Leighton House. Built to house the startling blue and Iznik ceramic tiles collected on his travels, it was thought to be the most perfect recreation of an Oriental interior in London.