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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

Additional Resources

”Daumier Collection.” In Collections. The UCLA Hammer Museum Web site. http://hammer.ucla.edu/collections/collections.

“Honoré Daumier: The Legislative Belly (20.60.5).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/prnt2/ho_20.60.5.htm (October 2006).

Kerr, David S. Caricature and French Political Culture, 1830–1848: Charles Philipon and the Illustrated Press. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Loyrette, Henri, et al. Daumier. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

The Legislative Belly

» Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879)

In his publications La Caricature and Le Charivari, both founded in the early 1830s, Charles Philipon was one of the first editors to successfully bring together journalism and the art of caricature.

Philipon, and others critical of the monarchy in print, were not only fined heavily, but also in some cases arrested on charges of defamation. Philipon was, in fact, in prison when he announced the establishment of L’Association Mensuelle Lithographique, also called L’Association pour la Liberté de la Presse. This association would publish a series of caricatures each month for distribution to regular subscribers. Proceeds from the enterprise would, in turn, go towards paying off fees leveled at Philipon by government censors.

French artist Honoré Daumier was a regular contributor to Philipon’s journals and created works, including The Legislative Belly, for L’Association Mensuelle. Among the recurrent subjects of Daumier’s satiric images was King Louis-Philippe, who assumed the throne in 1830 after a revolution that brought about the abdication of Charles X. The new monarch’s regime was centered on the upper middle class, or bourgeoisie. During Louis-Philippe’s reign, there existed two factions in the legislative body of the Chamber of Deputies—the Center Right, which favored the king’s policies and the concerns of the bourgeoisie, and the Center Left, which sought, in contrast, to restrict the king’s authority.

The Legislative Belly is an unflattering portrait of thirty-five prominent government officials belonging to the Center Right. Daumier’s subtitle for the lithograph has been translated as “Aspect of the Ministerial Benches of the Improstituted Chamber of 1834.” The obese, uninspired, drowsing figures in this lithograph embody the sloth, arrogance, and corruption Daumier associated with the monarchy and its supporters. With his pointed observations, Daumier helped to make art a mainstream forum for social and political critique. Simultaneously, the individualistic and sculptural qualities he brought to his work helped to legitimate the status of the caricature as a fine art.

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