The Prodigal Son Wastes His Patrimony by Henry R. Robinson


This colored print is an interior scene depicting a well-dressed young man walking away from a table with his hand over his eyes, apparently in disbelief and shame. Two women (of easy virtue) and three men remain at the table playing cards. A waiter or servant stands in a corner opening a bottle, while a fifth man is standing above the table with a glass in one hand and a bottle of wine or liquor in the other. Thus, the scene depicts all of the worldly vices that Victorian-era gentlemen were taught to shun: gambling, drinking, and engaging in riotous behavior.

The parable of the Prodigal Son or the Lost Son is among the best-known Christian morality tales and is found in Luke 15:11-32. The youngest of the two sons demands his share of his father’s estate which the father gives him. Shortly after, he runs off and squanders the wealth “in wild living.” Finding himself destitute, he returns to his father, repents his ways, and begs to be allowed to serve as a hired servant. The father rejoices at the return of his son “who was lost and is found.” Meanwhile, the obedient, older son is angry and refuses to join the celebration. His father pleads with him to forgive and to understand his joy.

This print was produced by Henry R. Robinson, who was a caricaturist and lithographer in New York City. He was listed as a carver and gilder from 1833-34, as a caricaturist from 1836-43 and as a lithographer and print publisher from 1843-51. Henry Robinson was known for political prints that championed the causes of the Whig Party (which later merged with the Republican Party) and satirized the opposing Democratic Party. Historian Peter C. Welsh has called Henry Robinson the "Printmaker to the Whig Party."

Date Made: 1840

Maker: Robinson, Henry R.

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: New York, New York City

Subject: Courtship, loveDrinkingChronology: 1840-1849EconomyLightingFurnishingsGames


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Clothing & Accessories, Art, Peters Prints, Domestic Furnishings, Morality & Religious Prints


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.2939Catalog Number: 60.2939Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: lithographObject Type: Lithograph

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)Measurements: image: 8 1/2 in x 12 1/2 in; 21.59 cm x 31.75 cm


Record Id: nmah_325231

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