After prayers signed 'R. Ernst' (lower right) oil on panel 82 x 64.5cm (32 5/16 x 25 3/8in).
After prayers is a beautiful example of Rudolf Ernst's mastery of simple composition combined with intricate detail to create works evoking nobility and strength. The son of an architectural painter, Ernst had a seemingly natural talent for composing scenes of figural interest and architectural gravitas. In the 1880s Ernst, like many of his contemporaries, had embarked on extensive travels in the Near East and North Africa. His imagination was fired by the glorious mosque interiors, the picturesque street scenes and above all the sophisticated pastimes of citizens in their quarters, and his experiences would forever shape his future painting career. During his travels he also amassed a collection of photographs, objets d'art, sketches and artefacts and on his return home continued to collect travel books, mashrabiyyeh woodwork and painted tiles which he used to decorate his surroundings. Ernst's careful study of his collection is evident in After prayers with its almost photorealistic attention to detail. After prayers is a sensitive portrait of an elder cleric at the side of his Nubian aide and evokes the admiration European artists developed for the Eastern customs of respecting elders as well as the importance of religion in everyday life. Such themes were to be found often in Ernst's oeuvre and mark him as one of the true masters of the genre.
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