Popping the Question

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 colored print is a three-quarter length portrait of man and woman seated indoors. The woman is dressd in a long dress with lace trim, gloves, and a jewel on her forehead. The gentleman wears a dress coat and plaid trousers. Room furnishings include: an ornate table and side chairs,an open jewelry box and vase on a table and a guitar under table. Fancy lace curtains, draperies, and a carved mirror decorate the room.
The print was produced by Sarony & Major. Napoleon Sarony (1821–1896) was born in Quebec 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 and 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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
Sarony & Major
Physical Description
hand-colored (image production method/technique)
ink (overall material)
paper (overall material)
image: 8 in x 12 in; 20.32 cm x 30.48 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Courtship, love
Chronology: 1840-1849
Clothing & Accessories
Domestic Furnishings
Peters Prints
Music & Musical Instruments
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Peters Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Peters, Harry T.. America on Stone

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