In the second half of the 19th century, the fashion of “oriental” paintings appeared in Europe. The demand for everything “Oriental” has grown rapidly. The artists, however, did not pursue ethnographic precision in writing the eastern scenes. Exceptions to this rule were rare. Usually painters depicted the eastern world not as it was in reality, but as it was wanted by Europeans.
Leighton called the pictures of this kind “frank hack.” However, this attitude did not prevent him from writing in the same way. “Frank trash” sold well, which allowed the artist to reimburse travel expenses in the Middle East. A “music lesson,” however, is difficult to consider as a hack work, although it can rather be called costumed than an oriental scene.
The oriental dresses that the models were wearing here were apparently bought by Leighton in 1873 in Damascus. Recalling that trip, missionary William Wright, who accompanied Leighton, wrote: “We visited several stores selling expensive fabrics and oriental dresses.
On that day, Leighton returned to the hotel with a pile of costumes embroidered in silver and gold. In 1892 she married the Earl of Orkney and left the stage forever.