Cost of Living in Daumier’s Time

Some not too serious observations about the costs of everyday life in 19th century Paris.

Compiled by L. & D. Noack since 1999. Last updated: May 25, 2020

Literature often mentions that Daumier was a relatively poor man, who followed Corot’s advice that an artists should always have debts in order to really be appreciated by his surrounding. (According to K.E. Maison, p.39, it was Balzac who gave Daumier this advice.) This opinion has been well documented by Cherpin in his publication “Le dernier cahier de comptes de Daumier.” Revue Municipal nr. 29 pp 34-38 and 40-41, Marseille Mai-Juillet 1956. This booklet shows Daumier’s handwritten expenses and shows also how much he received from Le Charivari for each print (see also B. Laughton “Honoré Daumier”. Yale University Press, New Haven 1996).

Surprisingly, the amount of money Daumier received each month over a long period of his life when working for Le Charivari should have allowed him quite a comfortable life. You will find a list of some daily goods sold in Paris during that time. These prices have been either taken from Cherpin’s observation, or from the captions of Daumier’s own lithographs or, at a later stage directly from the advertisements published in Le Charivari.

Taking into account that Daumier, apart from his lithographs, also sold wood engravings as well as drawings and paintings during the later part of his life, it seems difficult to identify what Daumier did with his income. Maybe one day, a research paper will enlighten us all about the spending habits of Daumier. We might be able to find out why he ended up in financial difficulties and poverty despite of his fairly sufficient funds.

Thierry Lefrançois published in 1982 (Flammarion) his research based on Cherpin’s account books. On page 5 he calculated that since 1830 Daumier received 40 francs for each of the 4’000 lithographs and 20 francs for each of the 1’000 wood engravings. Looking at the period between 1835 and 1845 his monthly income amounted to 300-600 francs which was almost 5 to 10 times the average income of a worker. For his drawings he received until 1872 between 100 and 500 francs, and for his oil paintings between 1000 and 1500 francs. Lefrançois suggests that the reason for the notorious shortage of funds in the Daumier household may have been due to the fact that he generously supported his parents as well as the extensive family of his wife during all of his active life.

18350.50price for 1 pound of tobacco
183550.00monthly subscription for La Caricature
18350.30unlimited bus ride in town
183672.00annual subscription for Le Charivari
183755.00price for the Album Caricaturana, containing 80 plates in colour
18371.50prix fixe dinner (two main courses, dessert and a pitcher of wine)
183830.00monthly salary for an unskilled worker
183932.00price for the Album Les Moeurs Conjugales, containing 60 lithographs
1839800.00Complete collection of Le Charivari from 1/1/1832 to 12/31/1838: 12 volumes
18390.75Portraits of politicians, which appeared in Le Charivari (price per print)
184040.00payment which Daumier received for each lithograph supplied to Aubert
18405.00payment which Huart, Jaime, Biais etc. received for each text supplied to Aubert
18419.00price for the Album Physionomies Tragico-Classiques, containg 15 lithographs
18417.50rent for a costume ball outfit
18420.05price of 0.25 litres of milk
18422.00price of one "vol au vent"
18420.20ticket to the public baths on the Seine
18423.00price for a (natural) sponge
18422.00Train ticket 1st class Paris-Orléans
18421.50Train ticket 2nd class Paris-Orléans
18421.00Train ticket 3rd class Paris-Orléans (without roof!)
18420.20admission to the "better", private bathing houses
18420.10admission to the public bathing houses
184260'000Madame Dorus-Gras, who was probably the best singer and actress during this period, earned this amount per year.
184275'000Madame Slotz, an equally famous actress, received this amount per year for her performance in “Rosine”.
184312.50price for the Album Les Canotiers de Paris
18437.50price for the Album Les Chemins der Fer
1844100'000paid to Eugene Sue for 10 series of "Le Juif Errant"
18440.25price for one cigar of the type Caillou
18450.30insurance fee covering train accidents within 400 km distance
18455.00address list of all 20'000 doctors and pharmacists (La France Médicale)
184660.00annual subscription for Le Charivari, advertisement and number of subscribers reduced the costs
18480.05toll for crossing the "pont des Arts" bridge
184845.00monthly income of an unskilled worker
184835.00Train ticket 1st class Paris-London
184825.00Train ticket 2nd class Paris-London
184925.00daily allowance paid to the members of Parliament
18502.50an inexpensive "prix fixe menu"
185025.00a full menu at a luxury restaurant
185050.00monthly fees for private school
1850200.00courses for the preparation to the highschool exam (without any guarantee!)
185150.00price of a winter coat (paletot)
185119.00price of a pair of satin trousers (white!)
1851400'000.00value of a gold bar (lingot)
18525.00special summer discount train ticket from Paris to the sea
18521.50one pound of chocolate
18522.90special sale of Venetian shirts
185212.50special sale of 12 napkins (regular price: 18.00)
18521.00admission to the Salon in Paris (art exhibit)
18530.15bus ride on the "Imperial" in Paris
18540.30bus trip in Paris
18540.20100 letter envelopes
18541.001 bottle of anti flu medicine
1854450.00price for a good piano
18541'000.00premium offered by "Eau Parisienne", if your freckles don't disappear
18546.00price for the Album "Chargeons Les Russes"
18543.00Skin lotion for blondes and brunettes
18550.20admission ticket to the world-exhibit
185560.00a new hand-tailored ladies dress
185513.40monthly subscription for the London Times
185521.403 months subscription for the Bruxelles Independance
18556.503 months subscription for the Köln Gazette
18550.75Advertisement per line in Le Charivari
18553.50Pen Rossini (with portrait of the famous musician)
1856150.00one barrel = 114-136 liters (une feuillette) of good Bordeaux wine
1856250.00a one week trip Paris-London, all included
18568.50men's jacket on sale (regular price: 29 Fr)
185612.00Glass and monocles made of Brazilian crystal
18565'475.00subscription for a box of 6 people for 6 months at the Théatre Italien in Paris
1856507.00subscription for 2 seats in the 4th tier at the Théatre Italien
18575.00100 pills against obesity
18571.00admission for one day to speculate at the stock exchange. Annual subscription 175 Fr.
1858106.00 (=20 US Dollar)Price for a bond and stock offer for US railroad from New York to Galveston to Mexico.
18593.00a bottle of hair tonic (success not guaranteed)
186016.00annual subscription to the bi-weekly "Horticulturist"
18611.00admission to the Zoo-Botanical Gardens
18610.50one bottle of inferior wine
18618'000.00annual rent of a house close to the Champs-Elysées
186210.00medical treatment of "secret diseases" (success guaranteed!)
18641.00a small glass of "eau de vie" (hard liquor)
186412.00Train return ticket 2nd class Paris-Le Havre
186468.20Train ticket in 1st class for a journey of 15 hours from Paris to Berne, Switzerland (51 francs in 2nd class, 38 francs in 3rd class)
18653.00small advertisements in Le Charivari
186545.00stay in a private hospital for 8 days
18651.50light lunch on Montmartre
1865250.00Daumier's rent per year for the house in Valmondois
18655'000.00Buying price for Daumier's house in Valmondois (option mentioned in the leasing contract).
18660.15short bus trip in Paris
186724.0012 silver plated coffee spoons
186846.0012 silver plated knives
18681.50one bottle of eau de toilette (also used by the Emperor)
187015'000.00annual allowance for a senator
187130'000.00annual allowance for the same senator a year later
18790.50an edition of the Almanachs du Charivari