Rudolf Ernst became such a dedicated Orientalist painter that in his later life he began wearing the traditional garments of those depicted in his scenes of everyday life in the Ottoman Empire. He would be frequently found wearing a "tarboosh" in a home outfitted in the Ottoman style, far removed from the hectic pace of Paris.
He was not born in such a worldly environment however. He was the son of Leopold Ernst, himself a painter, who sent Rudolf to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna at the young age of fifteen. After five years there he traveled to Rome, where he would focus on classical figure and landscape painting. By 1876 he had moved to Paris where he would successfully submit and exhibit his work for the next sixty years.
During the 1880s he won many awards and recognition, and in 1890 he began his travels to Egypt and Turkey that would inform his work for the rest of his life. He documented much of what he saw through photography, and could therefore accurately recreate the clothing and settings he used for his subjects. He became extremely observant about the use of interior decoration, such as architectural accents and tile, and incorporated them into his work whenever possible.
In the year 1900 he became a full citizen of France, and lived out the rest of his life in the peace of Fontenay-aux-Roses, where he continued to create more than twenty large scale Orientalist paintings.