[NARRATOR] Well, that music’s not right for this painting!
[NARRATOR] True to form, Rockwell avoids the grandeur of a wedding— and instead focuses on the private, quiet moment of a couple applying for their marriage license. By the calendar on the back wall, we see that it’s June 11th—the issue date of the Saturday Evening Post for which this was the cover. The young bride seems to shine in the dingy, cigarette-littered office. She has to stand on tip-toe to sign the documents.
But what makes this scene so effective is actually the pose of the clerk. In the initial sketch for the painting– and in the subsequent photo shoot with the model– Rockwell instructed the man to sit forward, and watch the young couple. But in an off-moment, the man slumped down, looking a bit bored and dejected. Rockwell wrote: “I realized immediately that it was a far better pose than the one I had sketched. That proved to be the key…”
And indeed, it’s the contrast of the optimism and romance of the young couple— with the old man who’s seen it all before– which makes this scene so poignant. In fact, Rockwell hints that it’s the end of the clerk’s day, and he’s rather impatient to be off. On his feet, he’s already slipped on rubbers over his shoes. And above him, on top of the bookcase, is an American flag—which has been taken down from its pole for the evening.