Yemenite Boy is one of a group of painted plaster sculptures created by Ze'ev Raban between 1914 and 1921. Another work in this group is Eli and Samuel (1914), which was also based on Yemenite models. Raban immigrated to the land of Israel in 1912, and joined the staff of the Bezalel School of Art. It was there that he first encountered Yemenite Jews, who worked in many of the school's craft departments, and who - with the encouragement of the director Boris Schatz - served as models for the depiction of biblical heroes. During this period, Raban's subject matter changed from composite sculptural works of Hellenistic figures - such as The Slaves (1910) and The Academy of Pluto (1911) - to individual, indigenous character studies, particularly of Yemenites.
Yemenite Boy features a bust of a young boy with long earlocks, dressed in traditional garb and wearing a turban; a heavy amulet hands on a chain around his neck. His chiseled features and pensive expression reflect the influence of the Symbolist sculptor Victor Rousseau, under whom Raban studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1909 to 1911; the polychromatic nature of the sculpture - it appears as if painted on wood - and the boy's dark, exotic features, recall the masks and sculptural reliefs of Gauguin. Raban was familiar with the medium of plaster from his studies at the Ecole Supériere des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where artists would prepare plaster models for apprentices to carve in marble or stone.
Raban gave up his plan to continue sculpting in the land of Israel due to a lack of raw materials. Instead, he turned to book illustration and to the design of objets d'art and architectural decorations in ceramics and stone.