Vois-tu, c'est l'eclipse qui commence, "Tout ce qu'on voudra" #26, from Le Charivari

Honoré Daumier, French, 1808–1879
Vois-tu, c'est l'eclipse qui commence, "Tout ce qu'on voudra" #26, from Le Charivari, November 18, 1847
Lithograph; third state of three
Princeton University Art Museum

The solar eclipse that occurred over Paris on October 9, 1847, was all the incentive that Honoré Daumier needed to draw yet another satirical print mocking the legal profession. Daumier had been forced to work as a messenger in a law office when he was very young, and later he was sentenced to six years in prison for his political caricatures, so there was no love lost between the artist and anyone working in a law office. This included the notary public, who at that time handled all manner of legal contracts.

The lithograph seen here was published on November 18 for Daumier’s series “As You Like it” in the humor magazine Le Charivari. The magazine’s title refers to loud music or noise made to cause a disturbance, which is exactly what Daumier hoped his caricatures would do. The print’s joke is a play on the word s’éclipser, not only a planetary event but also an expression meaning to slip away or vanish. The first man says: “You see, the eclipse is starting.” “But I don't see anything,” says the second. “That's it!” the first replies. “That's exactly right! When a notary public vanishes, would you see him?”

Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Librarian, Princeton University