Elihu Vedder grew up in Schenectady, New York. He left to study art in Paris and stayed in Europe for most of his life. After a brief period in the United States at the beginning of the Civil War, Vedder permanently settled in Rome. He loved mystical literature, and he painted magical subjects such as sphinxes and angels. Vedder was particularly interested in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a book of Persian poetry (ca. 1120), for which he made over 50 illustrations.