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March 15, 2015

“La Note ou la Vie” by Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), published in Le Charivari, February 15, 1850

LACMA: “La Note ou la Vie” by Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), published in Le Charivari, February 15, 1850, lithograph, sheet: 9 13/16 x 8 1/4 in. (24.92 x 20.96 cm). Gift of Mrs. Florence Victor from The David and Florence Victor Collection (M.91.82.235). Public domain.

The image hosted at LACMA is actually cropped: the captions at the bottom are missing (here one can see a version of the image with the captions). Those original captions reads in French:

Manière délicate dont s’y prennent les Anglais pour réclamer une dette à un peuple ami: – Vingt-quatre heures pour payer et les intérêts à douze pour cent!

Which reads in English as follow:

A delicate way used by the English to extort funds from a friendly nation. Twenty four hours to pay at an interest of twelve percent.

The Honoré Daumier website has more information about the journal Le Charivari where this caricature was first published. The caricature is also present in The Daumier Register, where it is archived as item no. 1988. Wikimedia Commons hosts a copy of the LACMA digital reproduction as well.

The caricature is reproduced in Richard Clogg’s A Concise History of Greece
where it is attributed to “Alphonse Daumier” (Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 64). Clogg provides this accompanying explanation:

The insurgent Greeks had contracted loans, on disadvantageous terms, in the City of London during the war of independence and in 1832, the three Protecting Powers, Britain, France and Russia, guaranteed a loan of 60 millions francs, much of the proceeds of which were expended on the army, on King Otto’s Bavarian bureaucracy and on the service of the loan. In the 1880s, further loans totalling 630 million drachmas, were contracted, the service of which came to consume a third of the revenue of the state. When, in 1893, there was a collapse in world demand for her principal export, currants, Greece was forced greatly to reduce interest payments and was effectively bankrupt. Her economic condition was further weakened by defeat in the Greek-Turkish war of 1897, which resulted in the payment of a war indemnity of 4,000,000 Turkish pounds. The servicing of the loan raised to pay this indemnity and of Greece’s existing loans was placed in the hands of an International Financial Commission. This was based in Athens and consisted of representatives of the six ‘mediating’ powers, Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, France and Italy. The repayment of these loans was to be assured by the assignment of receipts from government monopolies, tobacco duties, stamp taxes and the customs duties levied in the port of Piraeus. The arrangement, virtually without precedent, amounted to a serious breach of Greece’s financial sovereignty. (2013: 64-65).

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