Sentimental genre prints documented the social image of Victorian virtue through domestic scenes of courtship, family, home life, and images of the “genteel female.” Children are depicted studying nature or caring for their obedient pets as they learn their place in the greater world. Romantic scenes picture devoted husbands with their contented, dutiful wives. In these prints, young women educated in reading, music, needlework, the arts, the language of flowers, basic math and science are subjugated to their family’s needs.
These prints became popular as lithography was introduced to 19th Century Americans. As a new art form, it was affordable for the masses and provided a means to share visual information by crossing the barriers of race, class, and language. Sentimental prints encouraged the artistic endeavors of schoolgirls and promoted the ambitions of amateur artists, while serving as both moral instruction and home or business decoration. They are a pictorial record of our romanticized past.
This hand colored print is a portrait of man, woman and four young children, one an infant in mother's lap in a richly furnished interior setting. The family is clothed in fancy antebellum dress. The room contains an elaborate sofa, foot stools, two heavily framed bust portraits of the husband and wife, heavy blue drapes, an ornate rug, patterned wallpaper and an intricately carved chair rail. The children and father all face the mother as if seeking her guidance. This is one of several prints with the same title, depicting a contented family. These happy family scenes were meant to contrast with the restless, discontented bachelor prints.
The print was produced by Sarony & Major. Napoleon Sarony (1821–1896) was born in Quebec, Canada, and trained under several lithography firms including Currier & Ives and H.R. Robinson. Sarony was also known for his successful experiments in early photography, eventually developing a cabinet-sized camera. In 1846, Sarony partnered with another former apprentice of Nathaniel Currier, Henry B. Major. Together they created Sarony & Major Lithography firm. Joseph F. Knapp joined the firm in 1857. Sarony, Major & Knapp earned a solid reputation for lithography and the company was especially known for its fine art chromolithography. Unfortunately, by the 1870s, the firm shifted focus to the more profitable area of advertising. It also expanded to become the conglomerate known as the American Lithographic Company, successfully producing calendars, advertising cards, and posters. In 1930 they were bought out by Consolidated Graphics.