Honoré DAUMIER (Marseille 1808 - Valmondois 1879)

In the Courtroom (Avant l’audience) Sold

Pen and black ink and charcoal, with stumping.
A rapid sketch of a male figure in black ink on the verso. Signed with initials h.D. at the lower left.
212 x 225 mm. (8 3/8 x 8 7/8 in.)


A regular visitor to the Palais de Justice in Paris in the 1830s, Honoré Daumier portrayed scenes from the law courts for the next thirty years. Of his courtroom drawings, Colta Ives has noted that ‘Daumier’s particular genius is evident in the stunning and disciplined clarity of his images. The artist never became mired in detail or narratives that required explanation, but instead concentrated on defining character through incisive description.’

Datable to the middle of the 1860s, this drawing is closely related to, and may be regarded as a study for, Daumier’s partly unfinished watercolour The Lawyer for the Defence (Le défenseur), formerly in the collection of Jan Krugier and sold at auction in London in 2014. A closely-related composition is also found in a drawing in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As Marget Stuffman has noted of these three drawings, ‘In drawings of courtroom scenes…Daumier explored the relationship between the accused and his defender. Constantly varying the arrangement of the figures, he lets us see how sceptical he is about the integrity of lawyers and the possibility that justice will be served…[In these three drawings] the artist was here intent on showing the attorney’s vacillation: at first he refuses to be bribed, but in the end he caves in.’ A somewhat similar subject also appears in The Pleading (La plaidorie), a now-lost watercolour.

Included in the major exhibition of Daumier drawings held at the Städelsche Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1992-1993, the present sheet was described in the catalogue of the exhibition as ‘arguably the most successful of Daumier’s four known studies of a stalled exchange between a lawyer and his imploring client, who advances toward him, hat in hand. The confrontation is here very vigorously drawn and joined in close where the counselor’s shrug meets the defendant’s out-thrust jaw.’

As Ives has noted, ‘Daumier’s line drawings of the late 1860s and early 1870s…are to modern eyes his most original and exciting…The agitated, swirling, and sometimes spindly lines that Daumier drew seem energized by the impulses of the artist’s own thoughts and thus seem to encapsulate pictorially both emotion and the tumult of creativity…One senses the rapidity with which the artist’s mind and hand moved in both the fleeting nature of his figures’ expressions and poses and the careening, swerving, and frequently off-course speeding of his hand.’

As Roger-Marx had earlier opined, ‘Daumier is first and foremost a draughtsman, and to such a degree that one could almost say that he excels in suggestingcolour while dispensing with it. Unequalled as an exponent of black and white where nothing can impede his progress nor damp his ardour, this burning creative genius uses his brush like a pen or a chisel: the medium must not be allowed to interpose between the dream and himself, nor successive manipulations conceal the irresistible power of one of the most vital creators of all time.’

Among the first owners of this drawing was the Dutch industrialist H. E. ten Cate (1868-1955). Ten Cate began collecting paintings, drawings and prints around 1920, his collection eventually including a fine series of etchings by Rembrandt. The present drawing was later in the collection of the billionaire American industrialist and collector Norton Simon (1907-1993).

Possibly H. Barre, Paris, by 1878
(Jan?) Eisenloeffel, Amsterdam
Bernard Houthakker, Amsterdam, in 1952
E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam
Hendrikus Egbertus Ten Cate, Oldenzaal
His posthumous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 3 December 1958, lot 70
C. G. Boerner, Dusseldorf, in 1964
Anonymous sale, Bern, Kornfeld und Klipstein, 17 June 1965, lot 180
Paul Kantor Gallery, Los Angeles
Norton Simon, Beverly Hills
His sale, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 2 May 1973, lot 1
Samuel and Ethel LeFrak, New York
Thence by descent.

Possibly Erich Klossowski, Honoré Daumier, Munich, 1914, Katalog p.12, no.139 (incorrectly as a watercolour); Eduard Fuchs, Der Maler Daumier. Nachtrag-Supplement, Munich, 1930, p.64, no.318b, pl.318; Dirk Hannema, Catalogue of H. E. Ten Cate Collection, Rotterdam, 1955, Vol.I, p.88, no.141, Vol.II, pl.132; K. E. Maison, Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Vol.II, London, 1967, p.216, no.652, illustrated pl.247; Diane Kelder, Masters of the Modern Tradition: Selections from the Collection of Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak, New York, 1988, pp.18-19; Margret Stuffmann, ‘Drawing from the Mind: Reflections on the Iconography of Daumier’s Drawings’, in Colta Ives, Margret Stuffmann and Martin Sonnabend, Daumier Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt and New York, 1993, p.23, fig.22; Ives, Stuffmann and Sonnabend, op.cit., p.184, no.84 (where dated to the mid-1860s); Tatiana Ilatovskaya, Master Drawings Rediscovered: Treasures from Prewar German Collections, New York, 1996, p.136, under no.48, fig.1; Henri Loyrette et al, Daumier 1808-1879, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa and elsewhere, 1999-2000, p.438, under no.280. 



In the Courtroom (Avant l’audience)


  • Name: *
  • E-mail: *
  • Phone:
  • Comment: