Lot 42
  • 42

Honoré Daumier

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Honoré Daumier
  • Les avocats — Le parquet des avocats
  • Signed h. Daumier (upper left)
  • Pen and ink, watercolor and gouache on paper
  • 23.5 by 31.5 cm


(possibly) Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechame (on consignment from the artist)

(possibly) Galerie Barbazanges, Paris

Galerie Brame, Paris

Knoedler Gallery, New York

John Nicholas Brown, Providence (by 1929)

Acquavella Galleries, New York (acquired from the above)

John T. Dorrance, Jr., New York (acquired from the above in 1986)

By descent from the above in 1989


(possibly) Paris, Durand-Ruel, 1878

Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, French Painting of the 19th and 20th Centuries, 1929, no. 13

Providence, Rhode Island School of Design (on loan)

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Corot-Daumier, 1930, no. 103, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Exposition Daumier, 1934, no. 144

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Daumier, 1808-1879, 1937, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue

Omaha, Joslyn Memorial Museum, 1941 (on loan)

London, Tate Gallery, Daumier, Paintings and Drawings, 1961, no. 211, illustrated in the catalogue


Eduard Fuchs, Der Maler Daumier, Munich, 1930, no. 317, illustrated pl. 317

Jacques Lassaigne, Daumier, Paris, 1938, illustrated pl. 85

J. le Foyer, Daumier au Palais de Justice, Paris, 1958, illustrated pl. 61

Honoré Daumier, Catalogue raisonné of the paintings, watercolours and drawings, vol. II,  New York, 1968, no. 610, illustrated pl. 229

Daumier, 1808-1879 (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris & The Phillips Collection, Washington, 1999-2000, referenced p. 362


Very good condition. The sheet is hinged to the mount along the top edge. The ink, watercolor and gouache are in stable and show no signs of fading. The sheet itself is fresh and intact, with no tears, paper loss or planar distortions. Overall this work is in beautiful condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Les Avocats is regarded as Daumier's most elaborately finished watercolor of a theme that defined his career.  The scene depicts the lawyers of the Palais de Justice, whom Daumier delighted in depicting throughout his career (figs. 1 + 2).  When one of the lawyers of the court claimed to recognize some of his colleagues in these drawings, the artist's friend Geoffroy-Dechaume assured him that those depicted were a composite or character types rather than specific individuals. "[Daumier] knows lawyers, and above all the lawyer, better than they know themselves.  Whence the resemblance that so surprises you" (quoted in Daumier, 1908-1879, op. cit., p. 371).

Daumier began his career as an illustrator in the 1830s, and was best regarded for his satirical portrayals of French politicians in prints, sculpture and drawings.  It was only at the end of his career that his friends, led by Victor Hugo, staged an exhibition of Daumier's work at Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1878.  The exhibition was held just as the Impressionist artists, including Degas, were establishing themselves among the avant-garde.  In this light, Daumier's art was seen as a major precursor to the painting of modern life and social manners.

This particular drawing dates from early 1862 and is referenced in a pencil sketch in Daumier's notebook (fig. 3), along with a few other now well-known depictions of this motif.  At the time he completed this picture, Daumier was receiving financial support from Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechame, who may have had it on consignment in his studio.  The present work may have also been one of eleven works from these sketches to be shown in the artist's landmark retrospective at Durand-Ruel in 1878, the exhibition that brought the artist international acclaim.

We know that by 1929, this work was in the collection of John Nicholas Brown (1900-1979), whose forebears had founded Brown University in Rhode Island.   Brown lent the work to an exhibition at his alma mater, Harvard University, in 1929 and also to several well-known exhibitions of Daumier's work throughout the 20th century.   Later on, the painting came into the collection of John T. Dorrance, Jr., whose father had invented an industrialized method of condensation that lead to the creation of the Campbell's Soup company.  The picture has remained in the Dorrance family for more than a quarter of a century.

This work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition, Honoré Daumier: The Heroism of Modern Life, to be held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London from 22 October 2013 through 26 January 2014.