Abstract

In writing about the police force in late 19th-century France, the anarchist Jean Grave decried that it was in fact necessary, if only to uphold the decisions of the unjust magistracy and to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie. This essay explores his claim through the graphic work of the Franco-Swiss artist Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, a member of Grave's intellectual circle. Steinlen collaborated with radical leftist performers, authors, and publishers, including Grave, to produce a wealth of images that reveal his keen sensitivity to the social and political inequities of his time. Notably, Steinlen's emigration to Paris in 1881 coincided with a period of marked class antagonism in the capital, largely exacerbated by the policies of the state and their most visible enforcers: the police. Steinlen's incisive illustrations combat the uneven treatment of the lower classes by French police officers and the justice system at large, highlighting the oppressive and relentless nature of the judicial machine infernale while offering possibilities for its disruption or subversion.

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