Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Marriage License 1955
The Saturday Evening Post cover, June 11, 1955
Oil on canvas
45 1/2" x 42 1/2"
Norman Rockwell Museum Collection

©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

he promise of love was a theme that Rockwell continued to explore throughout his long career. Among these reflections was Marriage License, his popular June 11, 1955 cover for The Saturday Evening Post. In the painting, it is late afternoon on a Saturday, and a disinterested clerk has already put his boots on in the hope of going home. Couples in love are a humdrum regularity in his town hall office, but by contrast, an excited young couple is happily filling out the paperwork for their marriage license, a momentous occasion that they are not inclined to rush. In fact, this real life couple, Joan Lahart and Francis Mahoney, of nearby Lee, Massachusetts, were actually engaged to be married. Of the handsome groom-to-be, Rockwell said, "You know, this is a portrait of myself. At least that is what I would have liked to look like if I had had the opportunity."

Jason Braman, a Stockbridge, Massachusetts resident, served as the model for the town clerk at the urging of his son and daughter-in-law, Dave and Anne. Learn more about Mr. Braman's modeling for Marriage License from Anne Braman in the video interview below. The late Ms. Braman posed as the beloved teacher in Happy Birthday Miss Jones, Rockwell's March 17, 1956 cover for the Post.

View reference photos for the painting in the slideshow below.
Francis (Moe) and Joan Mahoney, the couple featured in Marriage License, were actually engaged and received this oil sketch from Norman Rockwell as a wedding gift. In 1983, the Mahoneys generously donated this piece to Norman Rockwell Museum.
Listen to the audio tour segment about Marriage License.
Click here to view the work while you are listening to the audio.
About Marriage License

Set in the town clerk's office just footsteps away from Rockwell's first Stockbridge studio on Main Street, Marriage License captures Rockwell's fascination with the somber wood-paneled interiors of his favorite seventeenth-century Dutch painters. Indeed, the building itself is fashioned after one pictured in Jan Vermeer's A Street in Delft. In keeping with the older style, Rockwell replaced an existing metal file cabinet in the left foreground with an old railroad station stove. His model for the town clerk had recently lost his wife, and the authenticity of his feelings adds power to the poignancy in this study of youth and old age.