Ratapoil's clothing is ragged and torn, but his pose is exaggeratedly elegant. The body of the figure seems to have become a victim of the representation of this discrepancy. This caricature of a type was politically highly controversial at the time. It shows an agent of the unofficial police troops which Louis Napoléon employed in the mid-nineteenth century in his fight for the French imperial crown. At a time in which the medium of sculpture was still strongly influenced by Classicism, Daumier created with his statuette a key work of modern sculpture which already heralds the twentieth-century trends towards abstraction and the dissolution of form.
Helmut Goedeckemeyer (1898–1983) began taking an interest in modern art after the First World War. In 1924 he invested six reichsmarks in a self-portrait by Käthe Kollwitz. The merchant’s collection last comprised 5,000 prints, a few drawings, and small sculptures of predominantly German and French artists. In 1959 he joined the Städelsche Museums-Verein. Earlier donations to the Collection of Prints and Drawings were followed by Daumier’s ‘Ratapoil’ in 1970.