Architectural painter Roberts travelled extensively in the Middle East and was the first artist to be granted permission to sketch inside mosques. This was on the condition that he shave off his side-whiskers, abandon his hog-hair paint brushes and adopt Arab dress. Following his return from the East he sat for this portrait by his friend Robert Scott Lauder, a commission from their mutual friend David Ramsay Hay. Here we see Roberts in the actual clothes he bought in Cairo, with his side-whiskers still shaven. Lauder embraced this opportunity to try his hand at an oriental costume, revelling in the rich colours, folds and textures of the fabric. Roberts commented that Lauder’s rendering of the Arab dress so greatly transformed his face “that my dear old mother would never know me”.