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Drawing - Une Cause Criminelle

Une Cause Criminelle

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    ca. 1865

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and black ink over traces of graphite and black chalk, heightened with white

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case IONIDES, shelf 3

Honoré Daumier (1808-79) was well versed in the workings of the law courts, having been condemned to a six month jail for having caricatured King Louis-Philippe in his engraving Gargantua. After his release, Daumier frequently visited the courts, where members of the legal profession provided him with a wealth of subjects for caricature. The present drawing shows a lawyer pleading the case of his client standing just behind him.

Physical description

A man leaning over a parapet is addressing his lawyer sitting down in front of him. He is stretching his hand out toward the lawyer who turns his back to look at him.

Place of Origin



ca. 1865

Materials and Techniques

Pen and black ink over traces of graphite and black chalk, heightened with white

Marks and inscriptions

‘h. D. a Monsieur Plot’/ ‘Plez’ (?)
Verso: Lugt 2503


Height: 180 mm, Width: 280 mm

Object history note

C.A. Ionides, by whom bequeathed to the museum in 1900.

Historical context note

This drawing is characteristic of Daumier’s oeuvre and shows one of his favourite subjects: lawyers at court. The linear treatment of the figures is emblematical of his vigorous style, and reminiscent of his caricatures for the satirical journal Le Charivari.

Une cause criminelle (L’information) is a preparatory study for the watercolour of the same title and dated about 1865 (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles) where the intellectual hierarchy between the lawyer and his client is restored.
The drawing can also be related to a series of sketches focusing on a lawyer pleading in the foreground (see for instance Le Defenseur, Washington, the Phillips Collection or Avant l’audience, New York, The Honorable Samuel J. and Mrs. Ethel LeFrak and Family). Moreover the gesture of this figure with his arms stretched recalls another sketch in the V&A collection entitled Avocat plaidant (see CAI. 127, verso). In both sketches, Daumier emphasizes the dramatic gesture of the characters to connect the court activity to theatrical productions.

Daumier was a prolific draughtsman hence the difficulty to date most of his sketches. However these often turn out to be preparatory studies for compositions later engraved. It is not rare to find stylistic discrepancies in Daumier’s work of the same period.

Daumier was most celebrated during his life time for his satirical and anti-monarchist illustrations rather than his paintings and drawings. This sheet is a good example of Daumier’s observation of the French society and its professional categories. He did a few series of sketches focusing on different categories such as musicians, comedians, art collectors, rustic life, saltimbanques…

Descriptive line

Drawing, 'Une Cause Criminelle' by Honoré Daumier, French School, 19th century

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

K.E. Maison, Honoré Daumier, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, London 1968, vol. II, The Watercolours and Drawings, London 1968, p.217, cat. no. 654

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.17. cat. no. 125

Honoré Daumier 1808-1879, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1999, p. 438, cat. 280.
C. Ives, M. Stuffman, M. Sonnabend, Honoré Daumier Zeichnungen, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, 1993, p. 22, ill. 21
H. Frantz and O. Uzanne, Daumier and Gavarni (Studio Special Number), London, 1904, pl. D.50.
E. Fuchs, Der Maler Daumier, Munich, 1927, cat. no. 199a.
E. Klossowski, Honoré Daumier, Munich, 1908, cat. no. 167.
Ives, Colta., Stuffmann, Margaret., and Sonnabend Martin, Daumier Drawings, New York, 1992, p.22-26, 184-185




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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