Ludwig Deutsch was amongst the most important and popular Orientalist artists of his day and, like Jean-Léon Gérôme and Rudolf Ernst, was known for detailed compositions which brought the exotic Middle East to Paris. The present work was painted at the pinnacle of his career and showcases his talent at capturing the details of costume and architecture.
The artist is thought to have visited Egypt as many as five times between 1883 and 1904, where he completed studies from which he drew inspiration on his return to France. He had several studios in Paris, where he kept a vast collection of objects collected from these travels, such as costumes, furniture, arms, pipes and ornaments.
Mosques were popular subjects amongst the Orientalist painters, not least for their rich architecture. Here, Deutsch uses the entrance set deep into the mosque's edifice to frame the group of figures leaving, while the inky shadow of the interior contrasts with the sunlit exterior. Their costumes, like the intricate carvings along the walls, are captured in brilliant detail and stand out in vivid complimentary reds and greens.
The architectural features of the entrance and the incription on the left-hand wall, which reads 'In the month of Shaban, in the year 900', allow the building to be identified as one of two that were completed in the late 15th century: either the Madrasa of Amir Qijmas al-Ishaqi (also known as Abu Hriba) completed in 1481 or the Mosque of Azbak al-Yusufi in the South-East of the city, which was completed at about the same time (see fig. 1).
There is another version of the present composition in the Najd Collection (C. Juler, Najd Collection of Orientalist Paintings, London 1991, pp. 45 & 49 (illustrated).)