"In late nineteenth century American paintings, women are signifiers of leisure; they have pasttimes not occupations. They are shown perfoming nonessential functions, sewing, reading, enjoying the sun, or even pasively engaged in 'reverie'."

Bailey Van Hook, Angels of Art

and Culture

       from Gilded Age by Prelinger

Idle Hours
H. Siddons Mowbray, 1895


"In a secular society, materialistic in its outlook, shocked by the behavior of men at the financial marketplaces and worried about the influx of immigrants, idealized human beauty became fair Anglo-Saxon female types. These paintings of beautiful, undemanding and passive women were intended to soothe, perhaps, an overworked male's sensibilities..."

Patricia Hills, Whitney Museum of Art, Turn of the Century America


Over middle of mantel, engraving - Washington Crossing the Delaware; on the wall by the door, copy of it done in thunder-and-lightning crewels by one of the young ladies - work of art which would have made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he could have foreseen what advantage was going to be taken of it. Piano - kettle in disguise - with music, bound and unbound, piled on it, and on a stand near by: Battle of Prague; Bird Waltz; Arkansas Traveler; Rosin the Bow; Marseilles Hymn; On a Lone Barren Isle (St. Helena); The Last Link is Broken; She wore a Wreath of Roses the Night when last we met; Go, forget me, Why should Sorrow o'er that Brow a Shadow fling; Hours there were to Memory Dearer; Long, Long Ago; Days of Absence; A Life on the Ocean Wave, a Home on the Rolling Deep; Bird at Sea; and spread open on the rack, where the plaintive singer has left it, RO-holl on, silver MOO-hoon, guide the TRAV-el-lerr his WAY, etc. Tilted pensively against the piano, a guitar - guitar capable of playing the Spanish Fandango by itself, if you give it a start. Frantic work of art on the wall - pious motto, done on the premises, sometimes in colored yarns, sometimes in faded grasses: progenitor of the 'God Bless Our Home' of modern commerce.

From Mark Twain, Life on the Mississipi, 1883

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