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The Return from the Race
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Carle Vernet
French, 1800
Black chalk stumped and heightened with white; framing line in light brown ink, black chalk and incised
27 7/16 x 39 7/8 in.
94.GB.52.1

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With their handsome galloping black and piebald stallions, an ancient Roman couple makes a dramatic return from a chariot race. Both a wreath of victory tucked in the man's belt and the winged figure of Victory holding a wreath on the side of the chariot suggest that the young people were triumphant.

The balanced, elegant composition and static, posed figures typify the Neoclassical style, which emphasized ancient noble subjects. The artist accentuated his technical skill by cleverly contrasting the cloud of dust from the horses' hooves with their well-combed but windblown tails and the molded leaves of the palmette motif decorating the chariot's lower front.

Carle Vernet exhibited this drawing and its pendant, The Death of Hippolytus, at the Salon of 1800, where they received wide acclaim. Another artist then produced engravings after them, which were exhibited at the Salon of 1808. Two years later, Théodore Géricault painted a copy from the engraving after this drawing. The two drawings were lost to sight after they were auctioned in 1817 and only reappeared on the market in the early 1990s.

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