The present work belongs to Long's well-known Daughters of our Empire series commissioned by Agnews in 1887 for the Royal Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The series included twenty national beauties which included five of England and fifteen of the other countries in the British Empire. Each personage was depicted in their national costume as interpretated by Long and including the present lot the following countries were represented: Aden; Bethlehem; India; Wales; Australia; Canada; Cyprus (Ancient: Love's Messenger, and Modern); England: the Parson's Daughter, The Violet, The Rose (a portrait of Princess Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, wife of King George V), The Primrose, The Little Sister of the Poor; Ireland; Jamaica; Malta; Gibralter; Scotland and Trinidad.
Egypt was exhibited with the following verse:
Hail, Egypt! Land of ancient pomp and pride;
Where Beauty walks by hoary ruins' side;
Land of the pyramid and temple lone!-
Honour to Egypt - honour!
May Allah smile upon her!
The years from 1881-1887 mark a period of Long's career when the artist had solidified his reputation and was securing important and lucrative Bond Street commissions. Having surpassed expectations with his dramatic Orientalist subjects in the 1870s with successes like A Babylonian Marriage Market, and An Egyptian Feast that postdated an extensive visit to Egypt and Syria, Long was comfortable with this genre when he conceived of the personage of Egypt.
Long chooses to portray Egypt as a market vendor and while the exact setting cannot be identified, it is most probably urban, and therefore central Cairo, rather than the provinces. The imposing woman holding a basket of figs, with lemons, bananas and pomegranetes to her side is literally surrounded by the fruits of the earth and thus her portrayal seems to emphasize agricultural Egypt and can be easily interpreted as an offering of the gifts of the Nile Valley.