Toggle mobile menu

The Builder of the Leviathan



The first few pages of the news journal Le Charivari reported on the events of the day, while page 3 was reserved for a caricature related to the news. Honoré Daumier produced many of those lampoons.  Between December 1843 and September 1846, Le Charivari published 101 caricatures in a series called “Les Beaux Jours de la Vie” [The Best Days of Life].

This lithograph, Plate 466 of the Actualites [News] series, was published in Le Charivari on September 12, 1857.  With text in the lower margin:

“Le constructeur du LÉVIATHAN se décidant à aller trouver Archiméde aux champs-Élysées, pour le supplier de vouloir bien mettre à flot son fameux navire.”

[“The builder of the LEVIATHAN decided to find Archimedes at the Champs-Elysées to beg him to make his famous ship seaworthy.”]

What’s the story behind this drawing?  The Leviathan was by far the biggest ship ever built anywhere in the world at that time.  It was designed by the famous ship builder Isambard Brunel in 1853. But the maiden voyage, from England and America in 1858, was a failure—an explosion on the ship killed five crew members. The ship was taken out of service and when it was reactivated years later it was given a new name and used to lay trans-Atlantic cables.

This print—an allegory on the hubris of industrialists—satirized the Leviathan’s difficulties, suggesting that the builder knew that his only hope for making the ship seaworthy was by gaining help from the famous ancient Greek scientist Archimedes.

Examples of this very drawing are held in numerous important collections, including the Armand Hammer Daumier and Contemporaries Collection, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Brandeis University Libraries, the Fogg Museum of Harvard University, the Kunsthaus Zürich, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Saint-Denis, and the New York Public Library.

Additional information

Signing, Dating, and Titling



Excellent Condition


Old Etchings


Glossy white wove paper, as printed in Le Charivari.
Aaron Martinet (French, 1762–1841), published in Le Charivari
Destouches, Paris
September 12, 1857
Signed by the artist in the plate en recto lower left.  The stone number (122) stated in the plate en recto lower right.  The plate number (466) stated in the plate en recto upper right.  The name and address of the publisher en recto lower left under the image.  The name and address of the printer of the lithograph en recto lower right under the image.
This work is custom matted and framed in a vintage frame behind UV-Filter Plexiglass.  Framed with all conservation materials.
Excellent condition.  Well-inked and crisp lines.  With press marks from verso visible in the image, as published.  Overall, a beautifully-printed work in superb condition with nothing to apologize for.  This print, more than 160 years old, appears to be brand new.
Framed Size:
16 in. (h) x 20.5 in. (w) x .25 in. (d)
Sheet Size:
10.375 in. (h) x 14.675 in. (w)
Window Size:
— in. (h) x — in. (w)
Image Size:
8.25 in. (h) x 9.25 in. (w)
Catalogue Raisonné:  Daumier Register Number 2997; Deltiel Daumier 2997 | Hazard & Delteil Number 3723.

Price & Purchase


Warning: Attempt to read property "files" on null in /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/CdnEngine_GoogleDrive.php on line 591

Fatal error: Uncaught Error: Call to a member function listFiles() on null in /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/CdnEngine_GoogleDrive.php:591 Stack trace: #0 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/CdnEngine_GoogleDrive.php(611): W3TC\CdnEngine_GoogleDrive->path_get_id('wp-content/uplo...') #1 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Core.php(736): W3TC\CdnEngine_GoogleDrive->format_url('wp-content/uplo...') #2 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Plugin.php(1331): W3TC\Cdn_Core->url_to_cdn_url('https://washing...', 'wp-content/uplo...') #3 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Plugin.php(979): W3TC\_Cdn_Plugin_ContentFilter->_link_replace_callback_ask_cdn('"https://washin...', '"', 'https://washing...', 'wp-content/uplo...') #4 [internal function]: W3TC\_Cdn_Plugin_ContentFilter->_link_replace_callback(Array) #5 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Plugin.php(1014): preg_replace_callback('~(["'(=])\\s*(((...', Array, '"https://washin...') #6 [internal function]: W3TC\_Cdn_Plugin_ContentFilter->_srcset_replace_callback(Array) #7 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Plugin.php(928): preg_replace_callback('~srcset\\s*=\\s*[...', Array, '<!doctype html>...') #8 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Cdn_Plugin.php(331): W3TC\_Cdn_Plugin_ContentFilter->replace_all_links('<!doctype html>...') #9 [internal function]: W3TC\Cdn_Plugin->ob_callback('<!doctype html>...') #10 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Util_Bus.php(21): call_user_func(Array, '<!doctype html>...') #11 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/Generic_Plugin.php(555): W3TC\Util_Bus::do_ob_callbacks(Array, '<!doctype html>...') #12 [internal function]: W3TC\Generic_Plugin->ob_callback('<!doctype html>...', 9) #13 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-includes/functions.php(5420): ob_end_flush() #14 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php(324): wp_ob_end_flush_all('') #15 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php(348): WP_Hook->apply_filters(NULL, Array) #16 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-includes/plugin.php(517): WP_Hook->do_action(Array) #17 /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-includes/load.php(1270): do_action('shutdown') #18 [internal function]: shutdown_action_hook() #19 {main} thrown in /home/bbxjebfc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/CdnEngine_GoogleDrive.php on line 591