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The Legislative Belly (Le Ventre législatif)

Honoré Daumier

European Art

The approximately four thousand lithographic caricatures that Honoré Daumier produced were widely circulated in nineteenth-century Paris, where they were appreciated for their sharp satire of contemporary life. A critic of the French monarchy, Daumier often found himself at odds with contemporary censorship laws, serving time in jail in 1832 for ridiculing the French king Charles X. The Legislative Belly, which appeared in the monthly series issued by L’Association Mensuelle, skewers the corrupt conservative members of the Chamber of Deputies, highlighting their bulging stomachs and sneering faces.

Daumier’s works in other mediums reflect his training as a lithographer. The black, sweeping curves of the pompous lawyers’ robes in his watercolor The Two Colleagues call to mind his handling of the lithographic crayon in his prints. In the double-sided drawing Head of an Old Woman in Profile; Study of Heads, he worked in fluid, economic lines to evoke the physiognomies of the Parisian working-class figures that frequently appeared in his images of third-class railway carriages.

Titus Kaphar: These are so playful, they kind of fool you into thinking that they’re not as serious as they are, which I think, to some degree, is the power of the piece itself. It sneaks up on you.

MEDIUM Lithograph on wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES January 1834
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 12 x 17 13/16 in. (30.5 x 45.2 cm) Image: 11 x 17 1/16 in. (27.9 x 43.3 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed, lower right in stone: "h. Daumier"
    INSCRIPTIONS Lower left: "Chez Aubert, galerie véro dodat."; lower center: "LE VENTRE LÉGISLATIF./Aspect des bancs ministériels de la chambre improstituée de 1834."; lower right: "L. de Becquet, rue Furstemberg, 6" Aspect des bancs ministériels de la chambre improstituée de 1834."
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Honoré Daumier (Marseille, France, 1808–1879, Valmondois, France). The Legislative Belly (Le Ventre législatif), January 1834. Lithograph on wove paper, Sheet: 12 x 17 13/16 in. (30.5 x 45.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund, 52.90.3 (Photo: , 52.90.3_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 52.90.3_PS9.jpg., 2019
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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