Jewish Captives at Babylon
51.5" x 78"
Framed: 73" x 98"
Painting, Oil on canvas
Signed May, Paris 1861 in lower right corner
The cartouche on the frame is Latin, and is a portion of Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

For there our captors asked us for words of song,
and our tormentors, for mirth:
"Sing to us from the songs of Zion!"

How could we sing the song of the LORD on an alien land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill,
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom
the day of Jerusalem's fall, those who said:
"Tear it down! Tear it down to its foundation!"

O daughter of Babylon that will be devastated:
Fortunate is the man who repays you what you have done to us;
Fortunate is the man who will seize and dash
your little ones against the rock!

About the Artist
(1824 - 1887)
Edward Harrison May Jr. was an English-American painter who spent much of his career in Paris.

The son of Edward Harrison May Sr., a Dutch Reformed clergyman, May was born in Croyden, England, and brought to America in 1834 when his father accepted a post in New York. After early training in civil engineering, May turned to art, studying for a time with Daniel Huntington. May first exhibited at the National Academy in 1844. With Joseph Kyle and others he produced a panorama representing Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress which was first exhibited in 1848, to great financial success. In 1851 May was able to move permanently to Paris.

In Paris he soon entered the atelier of Thomas Couture for further study. May produced historical and genre paintings as well as profitable portraits of the well-to-do. He exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1855 to 1885; he won an award in 1855, one of the first Americans to do so. In 1878 he was elected to the National Academy of Design in New York (although he never completed the process of becoming a member.) He was regarded as one of the leaders of the American expatriate art community in Paris.

During the Franco-Prussian War May served as a captain in the "American Ambulance" - a temporary military hospital staffed by volunteers from the American colony in Paris. He received a medal for his services during the war.

His works are found in many public collections, including at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; National Academy of Design, New York; Yale University Art Museum; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia.