The Daumier Register Digital Work Catalogue
DR Number 9637
Technical Details  Background Details  Size Details  Reference  Similarities 
Bronze Barbedienne  Bronze Valsuani  Bronze Unidentified  Bronze Rudier  Bronze Siot 
Plaster  Unbaked Clay  Reproductions / Imitations 

Background Details

There exist four different versions of this most important sculpture:


The original clay was created by Daumier before March 20, 1851, possibly even in 1850, when it was first seen by Michelet in Daumier's studio at the Quai d'Anjou in Paris (J. Cherpin, “Daumier et la Sculpture”, Paris 1979, p. 10 & p. 163). Cherpin stresses the similarity between some of the Robert Macaire lithographs and Ratapoil, suggesting that the idea for Ratapoil may be dating back to a period between 1838 and 1842 ("La physiologie du Robert Macaire"). General agreement prevails, however, that the modelling of the clay will have taken place during summer/autumn 1850. It seems - because of its fragility - to have been cast immediately in plaster possibly by Geoffroy-Dechaume (or Préault?) in the same year of its creation. It is assumed that during the process the clay might have been destroyed (according to Gobin, 2 plasters were produced). Ratapoil was shown to the general public for the first time at the Daumier Exhibition of 1878 at Durand Ruel, Paris.

The MOMA's Corot Daumier exhibition catalogue from 1930, nr. 147, which states that the original clay was at that time still part of the Bing collection, must be considered incorrect (Bing owned a plaster, not the clay).

B) PLASTER "P" (Pouzadoux) at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y. (USA).

According to Armand Dayot, Daumier did, with the help of Geoffroy-Dechaume as mentioned above, a plaster on the basis of the previous unbaked clay in 1851. Geoffroy-Dechaume’s plaster was transferred on April 17, 1891 to Jean Pouzadoux, a specialist in casting. The model became the basis in 1890/1891 for two Siot-Decauville bronze casts. The first casts were made on order by the State between Feb. 16 and Aug. 4, 1891. The first sample went to the State collection (now the Orsay); the second went to the Museum in Marseille in 1896. Both were sand casts (au sable). In total six casts were initially moulded. These versions were numbered and carried the foundry mark of Siot-Decauville as well as the name Daumier incised behind the left foot of the sculpture. For the latest dating information of this plaster, please consult the Conclusion in section E (below).

In 1892, but this has never been fully confirmed, Siot possibly may have done more than the additional later 20 casts for Geoffroy-Dechaume (cf. Joan M. Lukach in “Daumier's Sculpture”, p. 268). It is known for example that there exist two Siot-Decauville bronzes numbered 17, and therefore one may be tempted to deduce that the two editions cast at Siot-Decauville must each have had at least one cast consisting of 17 bronzes, and another of 20 (a Siot-Decauville Ratapoil numbered 20 is in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen).

Cherpin (J. Cherpin, “Daumier et la Sculpture”, Paris 1979, p.152) mentions that Siot Decauville produced a total of at least 22 bronzes. Note that the catalogue by Lecomte (“Daumier Sculpteur”, 1979) uses nr. 67 and nr. 68 as reference numbers for two different foundries responsible for this sculpture.

In 1929, the art dealer and collector Henry Bing had another 20 bronzes made from his plaster model by the foundry of Alexis Rudier, Paris. All the Rudier and Siot bronze casts are based on the plaster "P" model which today is at the Albright Knox Collection in Buffalo, New York. They were numbered and carried the Alexis Rudier cachet, but according to available literature were neither signed nor monogrammed.

The dates of production are contradictory and differ between 1925 and 1929. Since the Kunsthalle Mannheim has a purchase receipt for their bronze from 1928, we would tend to accept the year 1925 as date of production. Some bronzes were done in the lost wax process, others in the sand process. It seems that from this second cast (sand) there is a number of bronzes showing the foundry mark as well as the cachet of an “Epreuve Essai”, which possibly cannot be considered to be legal. It seems reasonable to assume that the foundry did not use the original Bing plaster but had a working copy done, which normally would have been destroyed after the casting process.

There are numerous casts, which were also detected by Cherpin, showing neither a number nor Rudier's cachet. Some of them carry a signature or a monogram. We would question the authenticity of these bronzes. Unfortunately, there is no other documentation available from the Rudier foundry, thus a prospective buyer should rather concentrate on the numbered casts instead of looking for the monogrammed or signed versions.

To complicate things even further we would kindly ask the reader to have a look at DR9639, section "Bronze Unidentified". One will find the following entry: "Scuderi bronze. A rare 'cire perdue' cast by Scuderi, order placed by Georges Rudier. Measures 33,5 x 72.9 cm. Founder mark R. Scuderi, Fondeur. Cast in an edition of 12. Sold at Sotheby's UK on December 8, 1999 lot 323, 1 of 12. The owners from 2 of 12 to 12 of 12 are not known. Unconfirmed whether these casts were ever executed".

In this context it seems plausible that Georges Rudier (active 1950-1993), who may still have had a copy of the plaster version of the Buffalo/Bing-Ratapoil cast, had also given an order to R. Scuderi to produce a new copy in an edition of 12 bronzes based on Scuderi's speciality, the lost wax process. It had happened repeatedly before that artists like Busato and others gave an order to Rudier who subcontracted Scuderi to produce an edition in the lost wax process. (Rudier used the sand cast process). Further details in E. Lebon's book "Fondeurs de bronzes d'Art". To our knowledge, only one single bronze, numbered 4/12 has ever been offered on the Art market (in 2014). As in the case of DR9639, it may well be that the remaining numbers had never been produced.

C) PLASTER "G.D." (Geoffroy-Dechaume), in Swiss private collection.

Initially it seemed logic to assume - based on extensive research over the last 50 years - that the plaster “G.D.” in a Swiss private collection was possibly either made from the Albright Knox plaster (plaster "P") or directly from the original clay (unless we accept that the clay had previously been destroyed, when the first plaster was done). For the latest dating information of this plaster, please consult the Conclusion in section E (below).

We would assume that this version is a plaster also from about 1851, which is still today (2012) in a Swiss private collection in Geneva. It was made separately from the first plaster mentioned above, possibly also by the mould-maker Pouzadoux or by Geoffroy-Dechaume and should not necessarily be considered a surmoulage of the Albright Knox version (there are evident differences). When the plaster was still in the possession of Maurice Loncle, the French foundry Valsuani received an order from him in 1959/1960 to produce 12 bronze casts numbered “1/12” to “12/12” plus 3 extra casts which served as “Epreuve Essai”. Apart from the mentioned numbers or letters they show the Valsuani stamp "Cire perdue Valsuani", but no monogram or signature. For a hitherto unknown reason it seems that the three extra casts were not marked as usual, namely “E.E.1”, “E.E.2” and “E.E.3”, but according to various sales catalogues the stamp showed: “E.1”, “EE.2”, and “EEE.3”.

In our list one will find a certain number of sculptures with a Valsuani stamp but without numbers. If we assume that the Valsuani order book is correct, only a total of 12 plus 3 extra casts had legally been done by Valsuani. We would have to believe that these additional unnumbered sculptures are possibly surmoulages made from a previous 'legal' cast. Cherpin in his book (p. 174) also strictly limits the number of Valsuani bronzes to a total of 15 (12 plus 3).

D) PLASTER "CARLI", Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille

There exists a third plaster at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, which carries a Siot-Decauville cachet. This would indicate that it is a surmoulage done from the Siot-bronze number 2 in Marseille, molded by Auguste Carli in 1929.

From this plaster ca. 15 copies have supposedly been cast, which were sold to private collectors. Up to now we have only been able to find three of these copies on the Art market. One of these plaster-copies is in France (André Négis), one in Rio de Janeiro (Alvao Cotrim) and one in the USA (Jeffrey L. Berenson). The latter was exhibited at the Rutgers exhibition of 2005 (erroneously described as terracotta) and declared to be a statue made about 1850 (see Exhibition Catalogue “Breaking the Mold”, p. 35, nr. 48 & nr. 394). The plaster is measuring 43 x 15 x 17,5 cm.


A detailed summary of the latest research on Ratapoil plasters done in 2004 can be read under this link: . It is a résumé of a publication by a group of researchers from fields as far apart as Art History, Sculptural Restoration, Computer Tomography and Nuclear Analysis who joined forces in 2004 in order to find answers to some basic issues concerning Daumier’s Ratapoil sculpture. The questions that had interested collectors and curators for years were:
· What is the reason for the existence of two obviously different versions of Ratapoil plasters?
· What does the “inner life” of each plaster tell us about their origin and possible change over time?
The “Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen” of 2004 (Gebr. Mann Verlag, Berlin) published the relevant findings (in German only) in their annual edition on pages 249 – 283 under the title: „Honoré Daumiers Ratapoil und die Untersuchungen der beiden Gipsexemplare”. The authors responsible for the study were: J. de Caso, University of California Berkeley; B. Maaz, Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin; E. Papet, Musée d’Orsay, Paris; A. Badde, Sculpt. Restoration Berlin; A. Cascio, Sculpt. Restoration, Paris; B. Illerhaus, BAM Berlin; D. Kushel, Buffalo State College.

The outcome is an extensive, photographically documented report of greatest interest to Daumier amateurs and researchers alike, and especially to the owners of one of the 55 (plus 2) original Ratapoil bronze sculptures. Unfortunately, there are only very few printed copies of this report available, which can however be purchased using following information: Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Neue Folge 46, 2004, Gebr. Mann Verlag Berlin 2005. Informationen: ISBN 3-7861-2405-1 and ISSN 0075.

Conclusion of the report:

The report comes to the following result: The plaster "G.D." version with its numerous small sections must have been moulded on a ‘flexible’ material and can certainly not be considered a surmoulage from a previous plaster. In other words, the Geneva version has not been moulded from the Buffalo version (plaster "P") but possibly directly from the unbaked clay.

The surface of the Buffalo version has unfortunately been reworked repeatedly at so many occasions that it is impossible to confirm that it was moulded from the original clay.

When comparing the plasters to the various bronze editions one will observe that some details from the original Siot-Decauville version, which showed up in the Buffalo plaster, had disappeared in the Rudier bronzes of 1929 (this observation differs with Wasserman’s on p. 169). The 15 Valsuani bronzes produced in 1960 from the Geneva plaster still show these details initially visible in the 1890 version. It seems that the cleaner and relatively untouched surface of the Geneva version may indeed reproduce / represent Daumier’s original clay design.

Assuming that both plasters have initially been moulded from the identical base/form would it be safe to conclude that both plasters have been done by the same person? Further research into Geoffroy-Dechaume’s oeuvre may possibly answer this question. There is, however, no doubt that both plaster figures have been modelled with great craftsmanship and expertise and have served as models for later bronze editions.

About 1874, the three brothers Victor, François and Alexis Rudier started a joint foundry activity in Paris. Apparently, however, their association did not last, since in 1881 some invoices listed François Rudier as the head of…

An additional bronze edition of the busts was realised between 1953 and 1965 (known as 2nd additional series after the Barbedienne bronzes). They were marked on the outside: LG (for Madame Le Garrec), Mme H. (for Madame Heuyer) and C (for Madame Cordier)....
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Founded by Mr. and Mrs. Siot-Decauville, this firm was directed around 1860 by Edmond Siot-Decauville. His exhibition salon and shop located at 24 Boulevard des Italiens, and his foundry at 8 and 10 Rue Villehardoin. The Company was at the same address until 1920. Indicated as a founder of bronze and pewter, their catalogs amortized bronze editions of works by a number of reputed artists, including Gerome, Gardet, Meissonnier, Mercie, Bartholomé, Marqueste, Marioton, Recipon, Fix-Masseau, Injalbert, Vital-Cornu, Agathon Leonard, Valton, and Larche as well as a number of furnishings, laying elements and office accessories. In 1890, the foundry cast 20 numbered models of the Ratapoil by Daumier, and in 1883, an edition of 5 proofs of the second version of immigrants by the same artists. For a number of years after 1920, the Siot-Decauville foundry was housed at 63 Avenue Victor-Emmanuele III, where they sold statuettes and objects cast in bronze through the lost wax method.

For those interested to see an in depth study from 2009 on the metallic composition of this Daumier sculpture (in comparison with other bonzes) please consult the following link:

The sculpture shown here consists of the following elements (calculated in weight %):
Cu = 96.7(3)
Zn = 0.975 (5)
Sn = 3.04 (3)
Pb = 0.097 (1)
Fe = 0.04
Ni = Trace
As = 0.10
Cr = Trace
Sb = 0.02

ORIGINAL OR NOT… that is the question!
The basic question in Daumier’s sculptural oeuvre remains: Can these sculptures be considered “originals”? (The same question arises regarding sculptures by Rodin, Degas and others). In contrast to paintings, drawings and lithographs, the technique of producing a sculpture ....
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"It was not until 1952 that France passed a law limiting the number of sculpture editions to 12. In 1968, the law was amended to require the name of the foundry on the sculpture and the number of the cast to be added. It was rehashed again in 1982 to refine the numbering system.....
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It seems that in the late 1990s Benatov had taken over the Valsuani trademark. As a consequence, in 1998, the Valsuani foundry decided to offer Daumier reproductions in accordance with French law from 1981. This law described in some details the conditions under which a previous sculpture may be reproduced….
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"Ratapoil" being considered one of Daumier's most important sculptures, has frequently been copied. Surmoulages have been done from existing bronze casts and sold in bronze, terracotta or plaster as well as resin. Often the foundry stamp, numbering or signature was copied, thereby adding to the confusion. We advise to carefully look at the provenance data made available in the corresponding section of the Daumier Register.

RATAPOIL was a fictitious name for a Bonapartist rogue and hit man, an active member of the so called “Société du 10 Décembre” and the henchman of Napoléon III. He always carried a menacing cudgel, using it like a baseball bat to convince political opponents to change their votes in favour of the Bonapartist party. Daumier’s sculpture of Ratapoil expresses all the violence and aggressiveness of this character in a highly convincing way.

The translation of the fictitious name Ratapoil, taking the words apart, means: “rat” (english “rat”), “poil” (engl. “hair/skin”), “à poil” (“naked/stripped to the skin”). Another definition is given by the Larousse dictionary, mentioning the name of General RAPATEL, who gained a reputation during the revolts of suppressing the movement in a very brutal way. A different interpretation would be the similarity to the expression “rataplan”, which defines the sound of a military drum (musically used by J. Offenbach), a sound very close to Ratapoil’s counterrevolutionary, military interests. As one can see, this fictitious name leaves us with numerous interpretations, however, "Ratskin" or "Naked Rat" seems to be the most widely accepted title.

Quite interesting are the remarks by Philippe Kaenel in the Revue de l'Art n° 137/2002-3, p. 41-48, "Daumier, Ratapoil et l'art de la condensation":

"Ratapoil is Daumier's most emblematic and documented iconographical invention. It had been associated with many models reflecting the artist's visual culture. Yet one probably source has been ignored: the Hercule Farnèse by G. Comino. Ratapoil is a satirical inversion and survival of classical statuary. It is a sort of Pathosformel in A.Warburg’s sense of the word. It also works like the process of condensation analysed by Sigmund Freud in his famous studies on dream and wit (Witz). Ratapoil is a perfect expression of condensation on every level. It is a pun (Rat-à-poil can also be read Rat-tape-poil). From a social point of view, his posture looks aristocratic and martial, his clothes are bourgeois but also proletarian because they are worn out. He is modelled after the most protean figure of the nineteenth century urban society: the “spéculateur”. The parodic inversion of mythology and of the antique is also symptomatic of Daumier's position as a caricaturist. In other words, Daumier expressed his admiration for the antique and for historic and heroic forms through a sculpture, which had all the characteristics of the Freudian "Witz": RATAPOIL."

The historic connection is probably best expressed in a publication from 2005 by the Orsay:

"The character Ratapoil was created by Daumier in his caricatures in Le Charivari in which it appeared about thirty times from July 1850 onwards. Ratapoil is typical of the militant Bonapartist; adventurer and fighter, certainly a former soldier, skilled at wielding his club against his foes and at speaking in defence of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte on the boulevards and in suburban cafés. In Ratapoil, Daumier achieved "l'évidence mythique". The character's success was such that the name Ratapoil entered popular speech. It was possibly Ratapoil who inspired Zola's Théodore Gilquin in His Excellency, Eugène Rougon. The character disappeared from newspaper illustrations following the coup d'Etat of December 2, 1851. Was the sculpture made before or after the lithographs? In the opinion of M. Gobin, a specialist on Daumier, the artist had first modelled his character in clay, before transposing it in his engravings and in his figurines representing the "juste milieu". The contemporary art board of the Musée du Luxembourg, eventually accepted this piece, but only after much hesitation, and then only as part of a special collection, open only on request. Perhaps it seemed too trivial an evocation of past political struggles and, twenty years after the fall of the Empire, a possible source of discord... and it came just at the time when the wave of Boulangism (support for General Boulanger), often considered by Republicans as a resurgence of Bonapartism, was only just settling down". (Musée d'Orsay Service culturel, G. Candar).

For valuations, appraisals and authentications of sculptures please contact the DAUMIER-REGISTER in full confidence.