Not far from today’s Centre Pompidou in Paris, women, children, and the elderly were massacred on April 14, 1834, when French troops under the July Monarchy stormed a worker’s building on the Rue Transnonain searching for a sniper. The brutal invasion was immediately illustrated by lithographer Honoré Daumier, who throughout the reign of Louis-Philippe used printmaking to expose and attack the corruption of the French King and his wealthy officials.
Not many of the prints exist, as the government didn’t just destroy the copies, but also the lithographic stone. One that does survive is held by the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The library recently digitized its Trustman Collection of Honoré Daumier Lithographs, which includes nearly 4,000 lithographs by Daumier donated by Benjamin A. and Julia M. Trustman in 1959.
“In 2001, the library received an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to digitize the collection,” Anne Woodrum, special collections librarian, told Hyperallergic. “Given the scope and comprehensiveness of the collection — it is comprised of nearly all of Daumier’s works in the lithographic medium — the library chose to digitize this collection in an effort to make it available to students and scholars worldwide.”
Max Close, undergraduate student in History and Archives & Special Collections, shared history on these lithographs in a post on the Robert D. Farbert University Archives and Special Collections blog, including “Rue Transnonain, le 15 Avril 1834.” He writes that the “controversial lithograph stone was destroyed by the French government which also got rid of as many copies of the prints as possible. The only duplicates of this print were hidden from the state by Parisians and Brandeis has a copy of this rare piece.”
The massacre came during a time of high tension with the insurrections in April of 1834. Daumier’s lithograph was created for the monthly L’Association mensuelle, published in September following the massacre. At the Maison Aubert print shop where it was displayed in the window, huge crowds lined up to see it.
This lithograph is horrible to see, frightful as the ghastly event which it relates. Here lies an old man slaughtered, a woman murdered, the corpse of a man who, riddled with wounds, fell on the body of a poor child which lies under him, with its skull crushed. This indeed is not a caricature, it is not an exaggeration, it is a page of our modern history bespattered with blood, a page drawn with a powerful hand and dictated by noble anger. In creating this drawing, Daumier has raised himself to his full stature.
The violence in the domestic space is biting and immediate in Daumier’s print, lacking the bizarre imagery that defined his caricatures, like “Gargantua” (1831) that has Louis-Philippe gorging money taken from the poor while sitting on a throne. (That print got him sent to prison for a few months.) Until Louis-Philippe was overthrown in 1848, Daumier was relentless with his critiques, both emotive and comic, and this surviving lithograph is still a striking work of subversive political art.
h/t John Overholt
View the digitized Trustman Collection of Honoré Daumier Lithographs at Brandeis University online at the Brandeis Institutional Repository.