Honoré Daumier (French, 1808-1879)
Honoré Daumier (French, 1808-1879)

La salle des pas-perdus au Palais de Justice

Honoré Daumier (French, 1808-1879)
La salle des pas-perdus au Palais de Justice
signed 'h.D' (lower left)
oil on panel
8½ x 11 in. (21.6 x 28.1 cm.)
(possibly) Jules Dupré; his sale, 1890, lot 141.
with Boussod & Valadon, Paris.
with E. J. van Wisselingh & Co, Amsterdam.
A. A. Pope.
Mrs J. W. Riddle.
with Galerie Durand-Ruel.
with S. Salz.
Mr and Mrs Charles Goldman, New York.
A. Alexandre, Honoré Daumier- l'Homme et l'Oeuvre, Paris, 1888, p. 375.
La Farge and Jaccaci, 'The Bibliography of the Collection of Mr Alfred Atmore Pope', in Bibliography of the noteworthy paintings in American Private Collections, New York, n.d. [c.1910], p. 4 (illustrated).
E. Klossowski, Honoré Daumier, Munich, 1923 ('mentioned by E. Waldman in Kunst and Künstler, 1910, p. 93').
G. Mandel, L'opera pittorica completa di Daumier, Milan, 1971, p. 104, no. 185 (illustrated).
K. E. Maison, in Pantheon, July/August 1961, p. 207, fig. 5.
K. E. Maison, Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the paintings watercolours and drawings, Vol 1, London, 1968, p.126, no. 140, pl. 115.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, 1878, no. 26.
Detroit, Art Institute, From David to Courbet, 1950, no. 92.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, dates unknown (on loan).
London, Tate Gallery, Daumier: Paintings and Drawings, 1961, no.84.

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Alexandra McMorrow
Alexandra McMorrow

Lot Essay

Lawyers were Daumier's chief bêtes noires, and provided the subject matter for the paintings most commonly associated with the artist in the public imagination. He saw them as 'men paid to simulate emotion and pious devotion to justice, but actually smug and insensitive. They arouse an antipathy in him that goes beyond mere caricature' (R. Ray, Honoré Daumier, London, 1966, p. 66). A committed liberalist, Daumier habitually satirized, in his drawings for newspapers, the absurdities and pomposities of the newly rich bourgeois. The success of this painting however, draws upon not only Daumier's keen journalistic eye, but perhaps more importantly, his own experiences in the courtroom. Growing up, Daumier saw his father pursued by creditors, and later, he himself was imprisoned for criticizing the government and openly insulting the person of the king in his published caricatures. Daumier evokes here his personal and childhood experiences of the 19th century French legal system, which gives a very real intensity and charged atmosphere to the scene.

This powerful and dynamic painting of lawyers waiting outside the courtroom is rendered all the more commanding by its relatively small size and highly textured surface. As we peer in to take a closer look at the bold and confident brushwork, vigorous impasto and dramatic use of chiaroscuro, we find ourselves mirroring the action of the lawyer on the left, and in so doing, establish an even greater rapport with the scene before us. Through careful cropping and daring use of perspective the viewer appears at eye-level with the figure, depicted in profile, who attempts to engage his important colleague in conversation. Thrust into the throng of lawyers, our close proximity to the main protagonists and the urgent immediacy of the composition lend a note to the encounter which is almost uncomfortable, yet undeniably enticing.

A black chalk composition drawing of the same subject is held in the R. Leybold collection, Paris.

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