Some artists, such as Henri Rousseau of France and Francis William Edmonds of America, did not go to art school but became successful painters as self-taught. While Rousseau used to be a customs officer who became a full-time painter after retirement, Edmonds was a banker for all his life. Because Edmonds dealt with money for his profession, he was immersed in themes related to literature or ethics when he painted.
Reminiscent of a 17th-century Dutch genre painting, this painting depicts a middle-class American family in the 19th century. The young woman in the center holds a new bonnet in her hand and looks content. Her parents, on the right, look shocked by the price tag on the bonnet. The delivery girl standing at the door is looking at them as if they are from another world. The price of that bonnet might be enough to feed the poor girl's family for several months. Perhaps she would rather hope to have the assorted vegetables on the floor than the bonnet. There is a strong contrast between the vanity of a woman and a young girl driven to work.
Edmonds also grew up in poverty. He wanted to become a printmaker but became a bank clerk early on due to his family’s financial situation. However, he did not give up on his dream. While working as a bank clerk all his life, he kept on drawing. Edmonds submitted his work to an exhibition for the first time when he was 30. He was still unsure, so the work was submitted under a pseudonym. Contrary to his worries, Edmonds received favorable reviews. That is when he became confident and started working as a painter. This picture was painted when he was 52; it satirizes materialism and consumerism. The numerous clients he met, from the vain riches, those who squandered their wealth through debauchery, to those who inherited poverty while working as a bank teller, must have influenced his work.
The old parents in the picture may be disappointed in their child’s vanity and blame themselves for failing to educate her properly. However, children are the mirror of their parents. The artist drew a mirror next to the mother and a bottle and glass behind the father, alluding to the vanity and debauchery of the parents themselves. After all, it shows that a child's problem originated from the parents.