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 × 29.1 cm (7 13/16 × 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.
Source: JPGM, Paintings Dept., curatorial files, letter from Alfred Daber (June 9, 1986).


André Schoeller, 1879 - 1955 (Paris, France)
Source: JPGM Paintings Dept., curatorial files, letter from Alfred Daber (June 9, 1986).


Alfred Daber (Paris, France), sold to Galerie (Fritz & Peter) Nathan.
Source: JPGM Paintings Dept., curatorial files, letter from Galerie Nathan (April 30, 1986); letter from Alfred Daber (June 9, 1986).

- before 1954

Galerie Nathan (Zürich, Switzerland), sold to Hans Eduard Bühler, before 1954.
Source: JPGM Paintings Dept., curatorial files, letter from Galerie Nathan (April 30, 1986).

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

Parmentier and Henry, Paris. Notice de tableaux, esquisses, dessins, études diverses, estampes, livres à figures, etc., appartenant à la succession de feu Géricault, peintre d'histoire. November 2-3, 1824, p. 2, lot 13.

Batissier, Louis. "Vie de Géricault"(1841). In Géricault raconté par lui-même et par ses amis (Genève: Pierre Cailler, 1947), p. 40.

Batissier, Louis. Géricault. Extract from Revue du dix-neuvième siècle (Rouen: impr. D. Brière, n.d.), p. 8.

Bonnefons de Lavialle, Paris. Catalogue d'une jolie collection de tableaux et dessins modernes [...] provenant du cabinet de feu M. de Musigny. March 7-8, 1845, p. 3, lot 9 (possibly Getty painting).

Clément, Charles. Géricault: étude biographique et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître. 3rd ed. (Paris: Didier, 1879; repr., Paris: Léonce Laget, 1973), pp. 427, 471, no. 83 bis.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue des tableaux anciens [...] composant la collection de feu M. A. Febvre. April 17-20, 1882, p. 63, lot 109 (possibly Getty painting).

Régamey, Raymond. Hommage à Géricault (Paris: Presses universitaires, 1924), pp. 39, 84n21.

Exposition d'oeuvres de Géricault, exh. cat. (Paris: Hôtel Jean Charpentier, 1924), p. 46, no. 104.

Régamey, Raymond. Géricault (Paris: F. Rieder, 1926), p. 25, pl. 9.

Bazin, Germain. "La Course des chevaux barbes de Gericault." L'Amour de l'art 13 (1932), pp. 96, 98, 99, fig. 49.

Les Artistes français en Italie de Poussin à Renoir, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1934), p. 25, no. 172.

Exposition Géricault, peintre et dessinateur (1791-1824), exh. cat. (Paris: Bernheim-Jeune, 1937), unpaginated, no. 36.

Théodore Géricault, 1791-1824, exh. cat. (Winterthur: Kunstmuseum, 1953), p. 31, no. 73, pl. 12.

Eitner, Lorenz. "Géricault at Winterthur." The Burlington Magazine 96, no. 617 (August 1954), p. 258.

Stähelin, Lisbeth. "Géricaults Pferdebilder." Die Kunst und das schöne Heim 52, no. 9 (June 1954), pp. 321, 323, ill.

Aimé-Azam, Denise. Mazeppa, Géricault et son temps (Paris: Plon, 1956), p. 342.

Dubaut, Pierre, and Peter Nathan. Géricault, 1791-1824. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen. Sammlung Hans E. Bühler (Winterthur: Verlag Buchdruckerei Winterthur, 1956), no. 20, ill.

Charensol, Georges. "Beaux-Arts. De Géricault à Matisse." Revue des deux mondes(March-April 1959), p. 728.

De Géricault à Matisse: chefs-d'oeuvre français des collections suisses, exh. cat. (Paris: Petit Palais, 1959), unpaginated, no. 61, pl. 1.

Aimé-Azam, Denise. La Passion de Géricault (Paris: Fayard, 1970), pp. 362-63.

Huggler, Max. "Die Bemühung Géricaults um die Erneuerung der Wandmalerei." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 32 (1970), pp. 154, 159, 164n10, fig. 119.

Eitner, Lorenz. Géricault, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), p. 86, under no. 46.

Eitner, Lorenz. Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (London: Phaidon, 1972), p. 18n16.

Grunchec, Philippe. "L'Inventaire posthume de Theodore Géricault (1791-1824)." Bulletin de la société de l'histoire de l'art français. Année 1976 (1978), pp. 409, 419n132.

Thuillier, Jacques, and Philippe Grunchec. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gericault (Paris: Flammarion, 1978), pp. 103-4, no. 114, pl. 21 A.

Grunchec, Philippe. Gericault, exh. cat. Benedetta Origo, trans. (Rome: Villa Medici, with Edizioni dell'Elefante, 1979), p. 212, under no. 17, fig. B.

Grunchec, Philippe. Géricault: dessins et aquarelles de chevaux (Lausanne: Edita, 1982), p. 54, fig. A.

Eitner, Lorenz E. A. Géricault: His Life and Work (London: Orbis, 1983), pp. 127-28, 338n94, fig. 113.

"Une passion pour Géricault." Connaissance des arts, no. 405 (November 1985), p. 31, ill.

G. A. "Auktioneer in London." Weltkunst 55, no. 24 (December 1985), p. 3864.

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Théodore Géricault. The Hans E. Bühler Collection of Pictures, Drawings and Lithographs. November 15, 1985, pp. 38-39, lot 21, ill.

Grunchec, Philippe. Master Drawings by Gericault, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1985), p. 83, under no. 32, fig. 32a.

Grunchec, Philippe. "Géricault, les cotes enfin fixées." Beaux arts magazine, no. 32 (February 1986), p. 29.

Hook, Philip. "The Hans E. Bühler Collection of Works by Géricault." Christie's Review of the Season (1986), pp. 48, 52, ill.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), p. 219, no. 128, ill.

Lüthy, Hans A. "Master Drawings by Géricault." Master Drawings23/24, no. 4 (1985-86), p. 566.

Wintersgill, Donald. "The Bühler-Géricault Sale." Art & Auction 8, no. 7 (January 1986), p. 114, ill.

Vinson, Vicki J. "Genesis and Aftermaths of Theodore Géricault's The Race of the Riderless Horses : A Stylistic Analysis and Chronology of the Barberi Project." M.A. thesis (Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, 1988), pp. 35, 59-62, 65-66, 118, fig. 35.

Liedtke, Walter. The Royal Horse and Rider: Painting, Sculpture, and Horsemanship, 1500-1800 (New York: Abaris Books, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989), p. 332, no. 211, ill.

Eitner, Lorenz E. A., and Steven A. Nash. Géricault, 1791-1824, exh. cat. (San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1989), pp. 29, 51, no. 18, ill.

Bazin, Germain. Théodore Géricault: étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné. Vol. 4, Le Voyage en Italie (Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1990), pp. 70, 71, 74, 198, no. 1358, ill.

Laveissière, Sylvain, et al. Gericault, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais; Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991), pp. 104, 362, no. 123, fig. 174, entry by Sylvain Laveissière.

Eitner, Lorenz. "Paris, Grand Palais. The Gericault Bicentenary." The Burlington Magazine 134, no. 1066 (January 1992), p. 50.

Masterworks from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Harry N. Abrams, 1992), p. 159n3, under no. 36, entry by Anne Norton.

Michel, Régis. Géricault: l'invention du réel (Paris: Gallimard; Réunion des musées nationaux, 1992), pp. 54, 169, ill.

Hofmann, Werner. Une Époque en rupture, 1750-1830. Miguel Couffon, trans. (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), pp. 571, 575, fig. 477.

Lemaire, Gérard-Georges. Géricault (Firenze: Giunti, 1995), p. 20, ill.

Whitney, Wheelock. Gericault in Italy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 136, 139-47, 151-52, 210n62, fig. 178.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 50, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Paintings (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 84, no. 46, ill., entry by David Jaffé.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 133, ill.

Chenique, Bruno. "Paris-Rome ou l'allégorie du peuple libre. Corps et message politique dans la Course des chevaux libres de Géricault (1817)." In Maestà di Roma: da Napoleone all'Unità d'Italia, exh. cat. (Milan: Electa; Rome: Académie de France, 2003), pp. 96, 99, 102, fig. 5.

Wolohojian, Stephan, ed. A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 118-19, 120n6, under no. 35, fig. 82, entry by Frances Suzman Jowell.

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