Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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Cocher, êtes-vous loué ?

Cocher, êtes-vous loué ?

Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Cocher, êtes-vous loué ? (Coachman are you booked?), 1842 Lithograph General Acquisitions Fund, 1944.189.25

—Cocher, êtes-vous loué ? – Non, bourgeois. – Eh bien : "Aimez qu’on vous conseille et non pas qu’on vous loue."

—Coachman, are you booked? – No, boss. – Well then: “Attach yourself to those who advise you rather than praise you.”

In the series Parisian Emotions, Daumier depicts the reactions of city dwellers caught in precarious situations. For a rich bourgeois gentleman with his dignity to uphold, being caught walking in the mud-filled streets of Paris would have been un-acceptable: hired cabs like this one allowed the busy businessman to travel in relative style.

This caption plays on the double meaning of the verb louer in French: to rent or to praise. This bourgeois pedestrian quotes the 17th-century poet and critic Nicolas Boileau, known for his clever maxims, such as this one warning aspiring poets not to be blinded by flattery. By showing off in front of his social inferior, the pedestrian re-verses the spatial balance of power—the cabman on his seat (temporarily) looks down his nose at his social superior. “Bourgeois” was a term used by service providers, especially cabbies, to refer to their patrons. It translates roughly as “boss.”