The Daumier Register Digital Work Catalogue
DR Number 135
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Background Details
ABOUT THIS PRINT. DR 135 is most likely the most important lithographical work done by Daumier.

The illustration refers to brutal massacre by the National Guard killing 19 women, children, and elderly in Rue Transnonain number 12 on April 14, 1834. It describes emphatically the suppression of the revolt by the "canuts", the silk weavers of Lyon. A few days later, the print was exhibited in the shop windows of Aubert's editing house in Paris. Although the censor had approved publication, most of the prints were nevertheless confiscated by the Government (see Adhémar and Bechtel). Although Daumier refrained from accusing the Government directly and reporting mere facts in his print, the King ordered to confiscate the lithographic stone and track down all copies of this lithograph available on the market and have them destroyed. The few still existing copies are extremely rare and those without a centrefold especially valuable.

For reference to the historical background please see Alexandre, Champfleury, Courthion and Camille Pelletan. The quality of this print can be considered as one of the graphical masterpieces of all times (see Passeron). Baudelaire called it trivial and terrible. Daumier was 27 years old. It was some time before he equalled this early masterpiece. Daumier has chosen the moment following the massacre. A deadly silence seems to pervade the place depicted. On the floor a workman is lying in a bloodstained shirt; under him a young child who has been crushed by his fall; at the right is an old man, and, in the background, near the door, a woman, both dead. Click here to see a list of the twelve victims of the events in Rue Transnonain on April 15, 1834

The Rue Transnonain has been originally named after an old village in Beau-Bourg dating back to the 11th century. After that, the street name has been changed several times: at first it was called Rue de Beaubourg, then Rue de Châlons or Rue de Chalon, then Rue Trousse Nonnain, Rue Trace put, Rue Tasse Nonnain, and finally Rue Transnonain. Today, the Rue Transnonain does not exist any more. It has been torn down during the reconstruction of the streets of Paris by Haussmann. The killed man is most likely a Mr. Hué with his child lying under him. The woman has been identified as Madame Godefroy.

One of the greatest collectors of Daumier lithographs was the painter Edgar Degas. He owned about 1’700 prints by Daumier among which also the “Rue Transnonain” on China paper. This print was exhibited at the large Daumier retrospective of 1999/2000 in Ottawa, Paris and Washington.

See here a copy of the original manuscript of the beginning of chapter 2 by Maréchal Bugeaud: "De la guerre des rues et des maisons" of 1848. Bugeaud (1784-1849) was in charge of repressing the insurrection of 1834, where the massacre of Rue Transnonain took place - depicted in this famous lithograph.

The importance of Daumier’s “Rue Transnonain” in its expression of historic dramatic events equals Goya’s “Disaster of War” and “Executions of 3 May” where Spanish farmers had been massacred by French soldiers. According to Rose ( NYT 4.3.07) in ' Anatomy of a Classic', neither Goya nor Manet considred themselves as artists with political power. We tend to disagree, especially when looking at the impact on politics which Goya and certainly Daumier had during their time.

A similar meaning is attributed later to Picasso’s “Guernica”.

Another similarity can be found in an oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), “Die Beweinung Christi” (1613/14). It is part of the private collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein (oil on canvas, 150 x 204 cm, Inv.-Nr. G 62).

A study by Emilio Vedova in 1937 also shows certain similarities to Daumier’s “Rue Transnonain”.

André Gill (1840-1885), a caricaturist and great admirer of Daumier, published a caricature of Daumier's Rue Transnonain: "Crac!", colored wood engraving (472 x 634 mm sheet size) which appeared in the satirical paper "La Lune", nr. 11 as centerfold.
Read here an Hommage to Daumier by Gill, published on Feb. 23, 1879, right after Daumier's death.


In 2016 an undergraduate Art student at UCLA commented DR135 as follows:
"Silence and Anger in Daumier’s Rue Transnonain
October 19, 2016 – By Maddie Duncan, UCLA Art History Student
One of Daumier’s greatest works, is Rue Transnonain, created in 1834 in response to political unrest, presents a dramatic imagining of a massacre of innocents. While the piece draws from current events, there is an unnerving sense of silence and anger not found in his other works.

Charles Philipon, editor of three of the satirical journals Daumier contributed to, remarked, “Daumier as a lithographer had the power of a history painter,”[1] and Le Men goes on to consider Rue Transnonain as a “history painting.”[2] History paintings most often depict moments from classical history or mythology. This print, however, is actually based on actual events that occurred in April 1834. The French government had harshly suppressed an uprising by republican supporters. French troops were later fired upon by people barricaded in a working class building on Rue Transnonain. In response, the troops entered the building and began to eradicate its occupants. Daumier reimagined the aftermath of the incident to create Rue Transnonain. The print features several victims caught in the crossfire of the massacre. Dressed only in a night shirt, the central figure is slumped over and surrounded by overturned furniture. A streak of dramatic lighting casts a spotlight on him – as if he is the haunting grand finale of a tragic play. Underneath him is the body of a bludgeoned child. While the subject matter is graphic, what is most striking about the piece is its silence. Daumier doesn’t depict the action of the massacre, but rather, the eerie quiet of the aftermath. This silence is also reflected in the viewer’s response to the work. The usual chuckles or snorts heard when people view Daumier’s satire are replaced by a somber hush. There is a certain anger not present in his other pieces. Instead of asking his audience to acknowledge the ridiculous through his exaggerated caricatures, Daumier instead forces them to face this atrocity and its consequences prompting quiet, simmering anger. In a way, this is a further testament to his artistry, as the piece seems to speak to his ability to project a range of emotions across his different works and, as Philipon claimed, elevate depictions of current events to the status of history.
While Rue Transnonain is not the typical Daumier caricature, it reveals Daumier’s emotional range. Instead of the humor that permeates most of his work, the rage in this piece effectively conveys senseless tragedy and outrage. This rawness and emotion elevates Daumier’s work far above simple cartoons.

[1] Ségolène Le Men, "Daumier and Print-Making." Daumier, 1808-1879. (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1999). 35
[2] Le Men, “Daumier and Print-Making.” 44".

A technical remark: We have noted on several occasions that prints of Transnonain are offered in different printing qualities. On a Los Angeles version we detected a half round circular line in the middle of the picture. In the 2007 Sotheby's sale 8312, lot 190, in which a Chine version from the Trustman collection was offered, a hardly visible straight line starting from the left hand side of the bed moving through the knee of the victim is almost dividing the print into two sections.