Prayer at the Sultan's Tomb (The Grief of Akubar) was inspired by Grme's visit to the city of Bursa, which probably occurred in 1871 during his first trip to Turkey (his second trip in 1875 was made only to Istanbul to visit the Sultan's court painter). Among the paintings focusing on Bursa, three are documented by Gerald Ackerman; a cityscape (Ackerman, no. 250), and two pictures showing mourners at the tombs of the early sultans: the present work and Prayer at the Sultan's Tomb, 1878 (op. cit., no. 266). Compared to its pendant, Prayer at the Sultan's Tomb (The Grief of Akubar) shows a more richly ornamented sultan's tomb and a symmetrical and centered composition.
The painting depicts the interior of the tomb of Sultan Mehmet I, who had been responsible for building the Green Mosque. The tomb is placed on a slightly raised platform and is surrounded by large books and candles; the platform itself is decorated with tiles. Inscriptions written in gold cover the base of the tomb while the top is partially covered with a geometrically patterned, tri-colored cloth. The background also contains details from the tomb interior; namely the grand mihrab made of intricately laid tile work and blue tiles that flank it. It is interesting to note that Grme chose to simplify the background by extending the blue tiles, which actually stop midway up the wall, to the ceiling, and by eliminating the gold medallions located on either side of the mihrab (see A. Gabriel, Une capitale turque, Paris, 1958, vol. II, plates XLII and CII). A man dressed in a white robe is standing in front of the sultan's tomb. His pose derives from the praying gesture that a worshipper assumes by cupping his hands behind his ears. The worshipper in the picture has his arms raised much higher than the usual prayer gesture. Grme has probably exaggerated the pose to heighten the dramatic effect of the composition. Furthermore, he sets the three-dimensional figure of the worshipper against the flat silhouette of the tomb to emphasize the power of the gesture. A drawing for the figure is in a New York private collection.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming revised edition of the catalogue raisonn on Grme being prepared by Gerald Ackerman.