Honoré Daumier was born in 1808 in Marseilles, where he apprenticed with the lithographer Zéphirin Belliard. Daumier went on to produce a large quantity of political caricatures for newspapers and magazines, and was on one occasion charged, fined, and imprisoned for his satirical work. Nevertheless, his work was successfully received by the market. In 1870, Daumier was offered, but refused, the cross of the Légion d’Honneur.
This cartoon by Daumier, a reproduction of a lithograph, was originally published in Le Charivari, an illustrated magazine based in Paris. The work is a framed clipping from the publication. In the print, four figures look down over a banister, and the caption below reads, “Comment, c’est dans celle cave que sont les sculptures? . . . je n’irai pas le voir, j’ai peur des rats! . . .” (“What do you mean, the sculptures are in the cellar? In that case I won’t be seeing them . . . I am afraid of rats!”) This is the second in Daumier’s series of seven prints on the Paris Salon of 1857, the annual official exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.