The New Bonnet, 1858
Francis William Edmonds (American, 1806–1863)
Oil on canvas; 25 x 30 1/8 in. (63.5 x 76.5 cm)
Purchase, Erving Wolf Foundation Gift and Gift of Hanson K. Corning, by exchange, 1975 (1975.27.1)
A favorite subject among mid-century painters was women's attraction to material temptations. Here, in a composition adapted from seventeenth-century Dutch genre paintings, Edmonds shows a young unmarried woman exulting in her purchase of a splashy new bonnet while her parents grimace at the bill. Admiring the bonnet against a map of the world, she embodies unbridled, worldly consumerism. Edmonds appears to question the wisdom of seeking gentility and upward mobility through consumption. Yet, he does not merely condemn the girl's extravagance, but calls attention to her disapproving parents' faults. The father's bottle and glass and the mother's mirror imply their indulgence in drink and vanity, respectively. The poor delivery girl adds a moralizing gibe to the scene of comfortable middle-class existence.