Describing The Babylonian Marriage Market by Edwin L. Long
According to Katelyn Fagan
Featured in the “Paintings from the Reign of Victoria: The Royal Holloway Collection, London” at Brigham Young University’s Marian Adelaide Morris Cannon Gallery at the Museum of Art is found a painting of historical and political importance. This painting is The Babylonian Marriage Market by Edwin L. Long. This rich, colorful, realistic, and historically accurate painting shares a narrative of Babylonian women being sold as wives in a market setting. There are many wealthy and rich among the crowd, holding elegant fans, wearing costly apparel, and counting their monies. However, the story told is not from the view point of the bidders vying to win a pretty woman; rather it is the story of the women themselves. With soft glowing light shining down on them, we see twelve women sitting behind the auction table, on exotic animal skins, waiting in line for their turn to stand on the table in front of all those men. We see the women’s faces, full of their reactions, doubts, dreams, inhibitions, and fears. Some are handling the situation more cheerfully than others. One of these women stares into a mirror, looking down into it, not smiling, not seeing beauty there. The women who sit there behind the table are of variable looks, from their hair, to their body types, to their facial features. This painting is about the Victorian ideals of female beauty as well as the current European marriage market that was happening at the time. This work is a beautiful handling and execution of oil paints, as well as a powerful political and social piece of art for its time as well as now.