Pain as resistance: Carnal suffering and political protest in honoré daumier’s l’imagination series

Gal Ventura*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Colic (La Colique) and The Headache (Le mal de tête), two lithographs based on drawings by Honoré Daumier, produced as part of the series L’Imagination, were executed by the artist in 1832, during the final weeks of his incarceration at Dr Pinel’s mental hospital, where he was sent as a penalty for the publication of the caricature Gargantua. This article addresses the singularity of both lithographs in relation to the other prints in the series, claiming that Daumier embedded socio-political elements in them, imbuing the visual representations of physical pain with a social commentary on Louis Philippe’s probourgeois regime. Based on the identification of the man suffering the stomach ache as Philipon, the article argues that The Colic and The Headache are, in fact, symbolic portraits of the publisher and the painter during their joint incarceration. Alluding to the pretext for which they were transferred to Pinel’s institution, on the basis of medical declarations of the prisoners’ health problems, the article argues that Daumier integrated these veiled portraits into L’Imagination in order to convey his criticism of the political causes of their incarceration. Through a rigorous analysis of the two lithographs in the context of contemporary French medical literature, as well as in comparison to the British and Spanish prints that inspired them, the article argues that, due to the lack of a visual depiction of the causes of the illness or of its treatment, they constitute sociopsychological symptoms that reflect visual resistance in a period of censorship and suppression.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)125-153
Number of pages29
JournalKonsthistorisk Tidskrift
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Konsthistoriska Sallskapet.


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