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12 / Conflict and Resistance

The Legislative Belly
The Legislative Belly
Artist / Origin Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879)
Region: Europe
Date 1834
Material Lithograph
Dimensions (Image) H: 11 1/8 in. (28.2 cm.), W: 17 1/8 in. (43.5 cm.); (Sheet) H: 13 11/16 in. (34.8 cm.), W: 20 3/16 in. (51.3 cm.)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rogers Fund.

expert perspective

Christine GiviskosAssociate Curator, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum

The Legislative Belly

» Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879)

expert perspective

Christine Giviskos Christine Giviskos Associate Curator, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum

Honore Daumier is well-known as a printmaker, although he was also a sculptor and painter. He lived from 1808 until 1879 and worked in Paris, and he established his career with the lithographs that he made criticizing, satirizing, and caricaturing the government of Louis-Philippe. Louis-Philippe ascended to the throne in 1830. He really wanted to be a monarch in the old style. And Daumier was hired by a publisher named Charles Philipon, who was extremely anti-royalist and his charge to the artists working for his newspapers was to keep the pressure on Louis-Philippe and the legislature. Daumier, in fact, created the prototypes of the caricatures for all of these figures that all of the other artists working for Philipon used. And Daumier and his colleagues were creating lithographs for Philipon’s papers, some of which came out monthly, some of which came out weekly, but sort of their claim to fame was there was an original lithograph in every issue.

Their constant criticism of their actions really led to a lot of vocal criticism of the government, which Louis-Philippe responded to by continually upping the censorship threshold. At first, he decided you can’t publish any images of the king’s face, and so, he was drawn in these cartoons with his face turned away. And then, eventually, the famous pear came to symbolize him. And the word for pear in French not only meant the fruit, but it also meant dodo, or fat head, and so that became a symbol for the king. And eventually, in 1835, the censorship was so steep that one of the publications had to close. But all of this built up to eventually topple Louis-Philippe’s government.” 

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