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The Golden Legend and the Apocryphal New Testament recount how, when Mary was to be married, suitors were called to the Temple and Joseph, a widower with children, was chosen to be her husband by a sign from God. The painting shows the marriage ceremony performed by the High Priest on the Temple steps, with a frieze of priests, acolytes, virgins of the Temple and disappointed suitors. The painting was commissioned c.1644 by Anne of Austria, widow of Louis XIII, for her private chapel in the Palais Royal, Paris. Stylistically its relief-like composition reflects the trend in Parisian painting of the 1640s towards an elegant classical style. When the picture was bought by Lord Hertford at the Pourtalès-Gorgier sale the price, 43,500 francs (about £1,740) was described by the critic of L’Artiste as ‘one of the most insane prices of the sale’.