Daumier, Honore (French, 1808-1879)

The Clinic of Dr. Macaire

Reference Type:
c. 1837
In this satirical cartoon, Dr. Robert-Macaire takes a group of gentlemen—perhaps doctors—on a tour of his clinic. Stopping at the bed of a woman with a sheet pulled up over her head, Macaire says to his guests, “There you are! Gentlemen, as you have seen, this operation, which everyone said was impossible, has been performed with perfect success.” One man replies, “But sir, the patient is dead.” To which Macaire answers, “it’s of no consequence. Without the operation, she would have died anyway.” Robert Macaire was a theater character who first became popular in France in the early nineteenth century. He was a bit of a rogue, always out to cheat people, and Daumier used him frequently in social commentary. In Daumier’s cartoons Macaire might be a lawyer, a judge, a politician, a gigolo, or a doctor—anyone who took advantage of other people. However, Daumier balanced his satire with criticism of those who allowed themselves to be taken in by characters like Macaire. Paris had many excellent physicians at the time, and doctors came from all over the world to study at the universities. But honest and dedicated physicians did not interest Daumier. Instead he was interested in characters like Macaire, who would charge a family a high fee for performing a surgery he knew would be useless and then bragging about his abilities. Notes by Mariann Smith
Art of Medicine
History of Medicine
C.C. Fry Collection of Medical Prints, Yale University, New Haven, CT