History And Context

Three Lawyers takes up a theme that Daumier treated in countless works on paper. He himself had experienced French justice. He was charged with sedition for lampooning Louis-Philippe and served six months in jail, after which government censorship forced him to focus his work on middle-class society and manners. He clearly enjoyed mocking the legal profession and obviously felt that the deck was always stacked against society’s poor and defenseless. No matter what the outcome for the average man, the lawyers in Daumier’s images always do fine. Here they are, self-congratulatory, puffed up with self-importance, exchanging clever quips. While in the courtroom they attack each other with obligatory theatricality, outside there is unity and collusion. In the background at the left, a weeping woman, ignored by the lawyers, is a reminder of the human toll of legal action. Phillips noted the beautiful and colorful effects that Daumier extracted from a palette of blacks and whites, comparing him to Diego Velazquez, Gerard ter Borch, and Rembrandt.