Honoré Daumier
(Marseille, 1808-1879, Valmondois)
The two Attorneys, ca. 1855/57
Oil on panel, 20.5 x 26.5 cm
Singed lower left: H. Daumier
Maison, I-90
The picture of the two attorneys in the Bührle Collection reveals the full mastery of Daumier. The artist is truly in his element here, an element that was already familiar to the thirteen-year-old messenger boy in the Palais de Justice: The seemingly incorruptible one tossing his head back so proudly is yet all ears for what the other is whispering to him; the theatrical light that illuminates only one side of his face corresponds to his divided self, just as the character of this colleague can be surmised from the shadow in which he appears. Daumier has no use for these "gossiping lawyers", and he lets them feel his disdain by way of his ruthless brush, which achieves a grandiose monumentality within the tiny dimensions of the picture. Although the playful inventiveness of the lithographer is still near, the bold brushwork has cast off everything literary. The small picture's chiaroscuro contrast and the flesh tints against a light ochre background as chromatic accents bring us close to Manet, and the sharp wit of the caricature is heightened to the point of being a powerful accusation. The same two actors, here shown as a double half-length picture, reappear transformed as three-quarter-length figures in the shape of the two attorneys of the Museum of Lyon.