Daumier’s Sire, Lisbon is Taken… (1833)

Looking at art can be rewarding. This caricature by the young HonorĂ© Daumier shows the same hidden elements he was still using two decades later though none ever seems to have been noted. Here an officer reports to the French king that the Portuguese have surrendered Lisbon. His sword though, its hilt in between the two figures, takes center stage and uses an important allegorical technique.  

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Daumier, Sire, Lisbon is Taken... (1833) Lithograph on paper.

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The sword is probably art's most common metaphor for a paintbrush used by hundreds of artists, many forming its hilt into their own initial. It is full of other symbolism too that enriches its use.1 EPPH has already shown "initialed" swords in works by Titian, Andrea Del Sarto, Lorenzo Lotto, El Greco, Guido Reni, Courbet, Manet, Picasso and André Masson. At left Daumier's hilt is a D for Daumier, identifying the soldier as a self-representation. Note also how the blade traces its line down to his signature thereby linking the two.

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Detail of Daumier's Sire, Lisbon is Taken... (1833)

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The king (top) must also represent the artist. How? His lips also form the letter D just as, 20 years later, Daumier did the same with a yawning musician as I have already shown. The artist, despite deep antipathy for his politics, is the king as well. The concept of the artist-as-king with a regal mind has deep roots going back to ancient Egypt and probably beyond when the king was a god. It re-surfaces in alchemy and many other esoteric traditions, most notably art. Art, few realize, is one of the world's most persistent esoteric traditions. 

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Top: Detail of Daumier's Sire, Lisbon is Taken... (1833)
Bottom: Detail of Daumier's The Orchestra...During a Tragedy (1852)

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Now that we know that true art has a unified purpose, it is far easier to make sense of an artwork. You can use your knowledge that art is created by people of like mind to train your perception to discover those specific elements that continuously repeat. No longer need you look blankly at an image. When you next open an artbook or visit a museum, you can for instance actively search for initials in swords or think about how a king might represent the artist. Such examples are everywhere. Just look for them. 



 

Captions for image(s) above:

Daumier, Sire, Lisbon is Taken... (1833)

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Notes:

1. A sword and other sharp weapons in both art and literature contain within their symbolism the idea that they cut through chaos to impose order and reason. They are precise instruments, penetrating to the heart of the matter.

2.  See the theme The Artist as King

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 10 Dec 2013. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.