Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904)
Oil on canvas
35 x 29 1/2 in. (88.9 x 74.9 cm)
Signed (upper right, on beam): J.L. GEROME
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Bequest of Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, 1887 (87.15.130)
Orientalist images represent more than two-thirds of Gérôme's painted oeuvre and are based on his travels in the Near East, especially North Africa. Paul-Marie Lenoir, Gérôme's student and one of his traveling companions, recorded a description of their 1868 visit to the Egyptian mosque of 'Amr in Cairo, founded in 640 A.D., whose interior Gérôme depicted in this painting. The rows of worshippers, ranging from the dignitary and his attendants to the loincloth-clad Muslim holy man, face Mecca during one of the five daily prayers. It is unlikely, however, that Gérôme witnessed such a scene at this particular mosque, which, by 1868, had fallen into disuse. Rather, the image is probably a composite of sketches as well as photographs of various sites.