Rouen 1791 - Paris 1824
Four harnessed horses seen from behind, and a groom | Quatre chevaux attelés vus de dos, un palefrenier
Graphite on paper
Monogram G at the lower right and inscription Géricault on the original mounting sheet
190 x 155 mm (7 ½ x 6 1/8 in.)
Arriving in England in April 1820 and then for the second time in 1821, Géricault brought with him his own vision of horses and of the equestrian world. Nourished by a personal passion that can be traced back to his childhood – Rosenthal relates that the young Géricault waited for luxury equipages to come out of the grand Parisian hotels to be able to see the long-necked Mecklenburgers  – and, enriched by his training with Carle Vernet and by the Italian journey, this vision however does not find a resonance in England, where the models in vogue were those developed by the imagery related to the racing world and sporting art. Thus, in London, Géricault abandoned his romantic representation of horses, as seen in An Officer of the Imperial Horse Guards Charging and The Wounded Cuirassier, and of wild and untameable horses, such as in Riderless Racers in Rome, and tried to take an interest in racing horses, a true instrument for demonstrating one's social status and business success. This exploration culminated in the Epsom Derby painted for his friend and landlord, the horse dealer Adam Elsmore.
But more than these aristocratic mounts, it was draught horses – a real working tool and veritable instrument in the development of industrial economy – that captured his attention, and maybe even his affection. At the same time, the technique of lithography which enjoyed 'inconceivable success' in London gave him an opportunity to explore the English equestrian world. In the series published by the editor Charles Hullmandel, Various Subjects Drawn from Life and on Stone and The English Suite, he plunged into the heart of English streets, and the lives of the common people, the world of blacksmith farriers, hauling workers and coalmen. A lithograph by Volmar published in Paris by Villain and by Gihaut The Return to the Stable  shows that he continued to be interested "in the strength of draught horses which he had discovered in England" and which may have reminded him of his childhood in Normandy.
The present, previously unpublished drawing comes from an album assembled in the 19th century. It has preserved its freshness and the attribution was already known, as its mounting sheet bore a label with the inscription Géricault. Its subject connects the drawing with the world of the horses employed both in agriculture and in industry. The perspective is quite original, the high vantage point reveals the strong croups of the four animals harnessed on both sides by shafts. The prints Entrance to the Adelphi Wharf and Six Horses going to a Fair, as well as the painting The Plaster Kiln (Paris, the Louvre) all belong to the same category of unvarnished representation revealing a search for realism: seen from behind or in profile, men and horses move their working bodies in unison. At the same time Géricault skilfully renders the strength of their movements and the heaviness of their hard working bodies. A sheet in the Louvre (inv. 26740) representing two dray horses seen from behind, with the third horse sketched on the left side, is very similar to the present drawing despite a slightly more rapid draughtsmanship. The vantage point is lower as we see the stomach of the first horse under its croup. A further sheet, reproduced in the artist's catalogue raisonné, is even more similar to our drawing, albeit it is also more sketched: it shows two horses seen from behind, harnessed like the horses in the present sheet with a shoulder collar which Germain Bazin identifies as French . Finally, a third drawing, Roulier conduisant un chariot (Cart driver), shows four horses – the two in front are only sketched – hauling a cart by traces attached to tow bars, which is highly reminiscent of the harness in the present drawing with the exception of the cart driver walking on the side instead of being seated on the back of one of the horses.
The present sheet reveals a virtuoso draughtsmanship and a remarkable sense of perspective. The ability and effortlessness of execution hides the complexity of composition which shows the four croups walking at the same pace. The rhythm that unites them is a perfect example of Henri Bouchot's comments praising the "ultimate painter of horses" for his "agreement of paces, science of walking, a certain poetry that he gives to the things which were previously treated negligently ..."
 Léon Rosenthal, Les maîtres de l'art, Géricault, Paris, Librairie de l'art ancien et moderne, Paris, 1905, p. 9-10.
 Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, Paris, Fondation Wildenstein, t. I, doc. 191, p. 62. This letter, which for a long time had been known only through the voluntarily incomplete transcription provided by Clément, appeared on sale in 1999. Today it is in the Musée des Lettres et des Manuscripts in Paris.
 One copy is in the British Museum, inv. 1869,0410.122.
 Deux timoniers marchant au pas dans Germain Bazin, op. cit., tome VII, no. 2613, p. 246, illustrated.
 Germain Bazin, op. cit., tome VII, no. 2153, p. 77, illustrated.
 Henri Bouchot, La lithographie, Paris, Librairie Imprimerie Réunies, 1895, p. 82.