Founded in 1883 by a group of young Harvard men as a rival publication to Judge magazine, Life targeted a sophisticated audience with its emphasis on satire and criticism. In the 1920s, Life’s pages featured cartoons and humorous illustrations, a format that continued until 1932 under the direction of Life’s long-time illustrator and new owner, Charles Dana Gibson. Presented in good fun, Life’s irreverent commentary on any and every subject of daily life, including prohibition, the emerging independence of women, politics and big business, entertained weekly readers and provided a forum for the talents of the humorist-illustrators of the day.
In portraying the deadly sin of gluttony, Norman Rockwell’s choice of a thin man diverged from the stereotype and presented the novel idea that anyone could be a glutton and fair game for criticism. Rockwell enjoyed the costumes and romantic settings of historical illustrations and the challenge of recording authentic details over creating imaginary ones. He often employed a professional research service in New York City, which sent him documents and tear sheets, as well as local librarians who searched out material for him. In addition to these resources, Rockwell acquired a collection of books and prints for handy research in his studio, and he rented or purchased costumes from theatrical costume firms in New York and Boston. His wife Mary searched for props in neighborhood antique shops.
Rockwell continued to do historical illustrations into the 1930s, until losing his reference collections in the 1943 fire that destroyed his Vermont studio. After that, he turned to more topical subjects.