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The critic for the Art Journal said that this miniature painting showed two women ‘in earnest conversation’. But in fact they seem to be looking at an engagement ring. The title and the location of their meeting implies that the recent betrothal had to be kept secret. Narrative paintings of love and romance were very popular in the Victorian period, fuelled by love stories such as The Angel in the House by Coventry Patmore. The need to marry was particularly pressing for women who were financially dependent on men; they faced becoming social outcasts if they were unfaithful.

July 2007