A young woman waits with heavy heart at the window, wondering when — or whether — her betrothed will return alive from overseas. It’s one of many iconic stories explored in the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit “Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony.” On display through September 14, the presentation includes 300 years of art and artifacts gathered from around the world, all exploring humankind’s most common yet extraordinary institution: marriage. Ranging from the highly traditional (the Russian empress Alexandra’s nuptial crown) to the ultramodern (dresses crafted out of seashells by Maine artist Brian White), “Wedded Bliss” has a lot to say on a subject that so often leaves us speechless.
The Empire-style gown shown here, made from fine cotton voile brought back from India by her fiancé, was worn by Sarah Peirce. In 1801, she wed George Nichols in the very room in which the dress is displayed, the parlor of her childhood home, which is now part of PEM’s sprawling campus in historic Salem, Massachusetts.
Peabody Essex Museum. Open daily 10-5. Admission: $15, seniors $13, students $11, free for Salem residents and children 16 and under. East India Square (161 Essex St.), Salem, MA. 866-745-1876, 978-745-9500; pem.org
For more about “Wedded Bliss” and photos from the exhibit, visit “Just Looking,” Edgar Allen Beem’s art blog.