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Watercolour - Les Saltimbanques
  • Les Saltimbanques
    Daumier, Honoré, born 1808 - died 1879
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Les Saltimbanques

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1866-67 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Daumier, Honoré, born 1808 - died 1879 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour drawing

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by C. A. Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case TECHS

The great French graphic artist Honoré Daumier made many drawings of saltimbanques (performers at fairs). In this poignant drawing an ageing clown bangs a drum balanced precariously on a chair, in the hope of attracting an audience. One acrobat son looks expectantly towards the distant crowd, while the other steadies the chair for his father. Their mother, however, sits in utter dejection, resigned to the crowd's indifference.

Physical description

Watercolour drawing of a family of circus performers outdoors at a fair. In the centre a middle-aged clown bangs a drum which is precariously balanced on a chair. He is accompanied by two boys, one standing to the left, the other sitting on the ground to the right. A middle-aged woman sits on the far left in an attitude of dejection. The clown and standing boy look towards a crowd of people in the middle distance.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1866-67 (made)


Daumier, Honoré, born 1808 - died 1879 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour drawing

Marks and inscriptions

Signed h. Daumier in the left-hand lower corner


Height: 33.7 cm, Width: 39.7 cm

Object history note

Acquired by Constantine Alexander Ionides by 1878; lent in 1878 by Ionides to Daumier exh. at Durand-Ruel in Paris, cat no. 203); in his inventory of 1881 (private collection) as 'Les Saltimbanques' with a valuation of £100; Bequeathed by C.A. Ionides, 1900

Descriptive line

Daumier, Saltimbanques, ca.1866-67, watercolour

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Colta Ives, Margret Stuffmann and Martin Sonnabend, Daumier Drawings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, no.112.
K.E. Maison, Honore Daumier,Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, London 1968, vol. II,The Watercolours and Drawings, London 1968,p.181, cat. no. 542
Basil S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides Collection, vol. I, Paintings in Oil, Tempera and Water-Colour together with certain of the Drawings, London 1925, p.16. cat. no. 120

E. Klossowski, Honoré Daumier, Munich, 1908, cat. no. 193.
E. Fuchs, Der Maler Daumier, Munich, 1927, cat. no. 256.
J. Adhémar, Honoré Daumier: Drawings and Watercolours, New York and Basel, 1954, cat. no. 46.
E. K. Maison, 'Daumier Studies I - Preparatory Drawings' in The Burlington Magazine, XCVI (January 1954), p. 14.
E. K. Maison, 'Further Daumier Studies I - The Tracings' in The Burlington Magazine, XCVIII (May 1956), p.165.
Ives, Colta., Stuffmann, Margaret., and Sonnabend Martin, Daumier Drawings, New York, 1992, p.224-227
John Berger, Daumier. Visions of Paris. London, Royal Academy, 2013. ISBN: 9781907533334.


Pen and ink and watercolour; Chalk



Subjects depicted

Clowns; Performers; Fairground




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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