Better known for his Raft of the Medusa, ‘The Bull Market’ shows that young Théodore Géricault had a sense of humour, albeit a strange one, as well as a strong sense of tragedy.
And this is a strange painting. It is a painting betwixt the classical and romantic periods, with elements of each used to set each other off.
The classical severity of the landscape and surrounds is both the setting and the contrast for a scene of slaughter. (Much like the confines of Wall Street recently, really.)
Within these rational confines [says one colourful analysis], a volcano of animal energies erupts with the violence of a prison outbreak. . . But throughout, a rigorous structural discipline is imposed upon these welling forces of violence and sexual energy. . . of raging but straitjacketed passions.
Like Picasso, who would also use such richly evocative motifs as bulls and minotaur, Géricault creates a symbolic narrative of human versus animal passions rich enough to rejuvenate the myths and legends of the past.