Most Daumier collectors are familiar with „LES BLANCHISSEURS“ (DR39), today one of the most cherished lithographs by Daumier. It was deposited with the French Authorities on August 22, 1832 and as a consequence Daumier´s suspended prison sentence was re-activated.
Take a look at the timetable:
“GARGANTUA” (DR34) appeared on December 16, 1831 resulting in a conditional six months prison sentence for Daumier pronounced on February 23, 1832.
“LES BLANCHISSEURS” (DR39) was deposited with the censor as black and white print (without text au verso) on August 22, 1832. The publication of the black and white and of the colored print was banned, the suspense of Daumier´s prison sentence for “GARGANTUA” was rescinded, Daumier was arrested by the police on August 27, 1832 and was imprisoned until January 27, 1833.
The print indicates that “LES BLANCHISSEURS“ is no.33 of the series “Caricatures Politiques” (called “Caricature Politique” from September 1833 onwards). The total of 83 lithographs from such series used to be printed as single sheet prints, also called “Feuilles Volantes”, without text verso, to be included in “LA CARICATURE” (and later in “LE CHARIVARI”), and for display and sale in Aubert’s print shop. However, in the case of DR39 those single sheet prints that had not yet been sold latest by August 27, 1832, were destroyed after the censor had prohibited publication and after Daumier had been arrested by the police.
To our great surprise, we recently found a version of DR39 on normal print paper recto and printed text au verso
The verso indicates “LE CHARIVARI”, however no date is given on either recto or verso. One of our Daumier friends in Germany inspected volume I of “LE CHARIVARI” at the library of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main that owns almost all Charivari volumes. He discovered that the Frankfurt Charivari volume I also contains so called specimens nr.1 and nr.10
Both specimens indicate as date merely “Lundi…1832” but no date or month. The lithographs on page 3 differ but the printed texts on pages 1, 2 and 4 are identical.
The purpose of such specimens was as follows: Daumier collectors were well aware of the fact that because of censorship pressure LA CARICATURE was in financial difficulties. The editor, Philipon, decided to create a less politically oriented newspaper, “LE CHARIVARI”, whose first edition appeared on December 1, 1832. In order to promote this forthcoming publication, Philipon published some 45 specimens (flyers) for collectors and the general public, each one with a caricature by different artists and accompanied by some advertisements to solicit interest and subscriptions. The specimens already conveyed to the public an idea about the look of the future Charivari. We are not yet sure about the first date of appearance of these specimens, but can assume they were published between February and December 1, 1832 when the first Charivari edition came out.
We suppose that the aforementioned lithograph DR39 (recto) and newspaper text (verso) are pages 3 and 4 of one these specimens produced for the promotion of LE CHARIVARI. The reason of this assumption being that the text au verso is identical with the text on page 4 of specimens nr.1 and nr.10 in the Charivari volume 1 of Frankfurt University. This means that DR39 was not only printed in single sheet form but was also used in connection with a specimen to promote the forthcoming CHARIVARI. The censor’s ban and order to destroy DR39 applied not only to the single sheet prints but also to specimen prints. As a consequence all specimens that had not yet left the printer’s premises were destroyed.
Up to now, we are aware only of one single Daumier DR39 specimen print. The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, which owns an almost complete Daumier print collection, was not aware of the existence of such specimen prints. We invite all interested Daumier amateurs to send us their comments and observations in the matter.