The Race of the Riderless Horses

Object Details


The Race of the Riderless Horses


Théodore Géricault (French, 1791 - 1824)






Oil and pen and ink on paper laid on canvas


19.8 x 29.1 cm (7 13/16 x 11 7/16 in.)

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As a boy, Théodore Géricault loved drawing horses and would sit in the stables watching and drawing. In 1817, he traveled to Rome where he witnessed the annual Carnival horse race and subsequently made numerous studies of this spectacle. This study marks the moment just before the race begins, when the terrified riderless horses begin their run down the Corso in Rome.

A groom tries to contain a rearing horse in the center, while other men all around push and pull the wild animals, goading them into a frenzied stampede. Géricault used virtually monochromatic colors applied in thick swirls to animate and suggest extreme physical strength. The dramatic use of light and shadow adds energy to the relieflike scene. Géricault mythologized the event: the muscular nude in the center recalls athletes of ancient Greece, and the thrusting horses bring to mind the Parthenon frieze designed by Phidias. Géricault intended to use this study for a grand painting to submit to the Salon, but he had to abandon that plan when he was called back to France on short notice.

1817 - 1824

Théodore Géricault, French, 1791 - 1824 [sold, Géricault sale, Parmentier and Henry, Paris, November 2-3, 1824, lot 13]

by 1841 - 1845

Possibly Jean-Jacques-Nicolas de Montcimet de Musigny (Paris, France) [sold, M. de Musigny sale, Bonnefons de Lavialle, Paris, March 7-8, 1845, lot 9]

by 1879 -

M. de Dartin

- 1882

Possibly Alexis Joseph Febvre (Paris, France) [sold, Febvre sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 17-20, 1882, lot 109]

by 1924 - still in 1937

Mme. Tordeux, née Dartin

- before 1953

Mme. Demange, by inheritance within the Demange family.

Demange Family, sold to André Schoeller.

André Schoeller, 1879 - 1955 (Paris, France)

Alfred Daber (Paris, France), sold to Galerie (Fritz & Peter) Nathan.

- before 1954

Galerie Nathan (Zürich, Switzerland), sold to Hans Eduard Bühler, before 1954.

by 1954 - 1967

Hans Eduard Bühler, 1893 - 1967 (Schloss Berg-am-Irchel, Winterthur, Switzerland), by inheritance to his heirs, 1967.

1967 - 1985

Heirs of Hans Eduard Bühler, 1893 - 1967 (Schloss Berg-am-Irchel, Winterthur, Switzerland) [sold, Bühler sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, November 15, 1985, lot 21, through Walter Goetz to the J. Paul Getty Museum]

Exposition d'oeuvres de Géricault (April 24 to May 16, 1924) (Cat. 104)
  • Hôtel Jean Charpentier (Paris), April 24 to May 16, 1924
Les Artistes Français en Italie de Poussin à Renoir (May to July, 1934) (Cat. 172)
  • Musée des Arts Décoratifs, (Paris), May to July, 1934
Exposition Géricault, peintre et dessinateur (1791-1824) (May 10 to May 29, 1937) (Cat. 36)
  • Galerie Bernheim Jeune, (Paris), May 10 to May 29, 1937
Theodore Géricault, 1791 - 1824 (August 30 to November 8, 1953) (73)
  • Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, (Winterthur), August 30 to November 8, 1953
De Géricault à Matisse: chefs-d'oeuvre français des collections suisses (March to May, 1959) (61)
  • Musée du Petit Palais, (Paris), March to May, 1959
Géricault: Romantic Paintings and Drawings (January 28 to March 26, 1989) (18)
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, (San Francisco), January 28 to March 26, 1989
Gericault (October 10, 1991 to January 6, 1992) (123)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, (Paris), October 10, 1991 to January 6, 1992
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