The present work was painted on Ludwig Deutsch's second trip to Cairo in 1890. Particularly fascinated by the spiritual aura of merchants of healing balms and medicinal herbs, Deutsch has portrayed this mystical figure in two paintings, the larger version of which sold at Christie's in 1998. The present work focuses on the central figure of the healer, holding his cane with imposing dignity while attending to a young girl and child.
Deutsch captured this solemn and yet humble encounter between the healer and his followers with great detail. As Lynne Thornton observes, his depictions 'of Egyptian men and women have all the spontaneity of on-the-spot sketches. The architecture, the clothes and armour in his oils are treated with breathtaking microscopic detail. Like many other artists of the time, he used as studio props the Islamic tiles, textiles and metalwork which decorated the houses in which he stayed, and very probably relied on photographs as well.
Besides exceptional technical ability, Deutsch had a keen eye for small gestures and individual expressions that give people life and character. The themes he chose are quiet and peaceful: domino and chess-players, Muslims at prayers, public scribes, armed guards, street entertainers and merchants' (quoted in exh. cat. Orientalism Delacroix to Klee, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, p. 240).