Two Women Shall be Grinding at the Mill by Alfred Elmore (1815–1881). Oil on canvas, 35 x 46cm (13 3/4 x 18 1/8 inches. signed lower left: “A. Elmore 1868.” The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Source: Awakening Beauty, no. 32. Provenance: J. Farnworth, Esq., 1874; Bonhams, Knowle, September 14th 2004, Lot 92. Bought as Lot 167, Bonhams Oxford, 16th July 2014. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Paul Crowther

The scene represents a quotation from the Gospel of St Matthew (24:41) in the New Testament. Christ is telling the disciples that no man will know when the hour judgement before God will come, and when the saved will enter Heaven. To give his pronouncements more impact, Christ illustrates them with dramatic examples. Hence, the full line reads ‘Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.’

This painting is probably a reduced version of a work with the same title exhibited as no. 205 at the Royal Academy in 1868. The R.A. painting was widely praised. The picture is of broader interest as an example of orientalist taste in Victorian Britain. For whilst the scene is Biblical, it concentrates on women in a North African setting who are engaged in traditional work. The scene indeed, may be set in Algiers, and is reminiscent in some respects of Delacroix’s paintings of Algerian interiors with Jewish women.


Crowther, Paul. Awakening Beauty: The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ljubljana: National Gallery of Slovenia; Galway: Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, 2014.

Last modified 27 November 2014