As an English artist, Edwin Long fed 19th century European’s hunger for the exotic. The “Orient” was not a real place but a mixture of anything foreign that Europeans could use to project their own desires for “immoral” subjects such as eroticism.
In this picture, a line of girls are being sold for dowry. From left to right, they become increasingly more ugly. The girl on the stage is so beautiful that we do not see her face. The girls on the left are fair-skinned and more western looking. The girl on the very right is so ugly that she is already flirting with a man.
The Babylonian Marriage Market: An Auction of Women in the Ancient World
In the 5th century BC, Greek Historian Herodotus
wrote about the customs and traditions he witnessed while in Babylon. One of
the more controversial customs he reports on is the Babylonian marriage market
in which young women were gathered up and an “auctioneer would get each of the
women to stand up one by one, and he would put her up for sale”.