Oil on canvas
Framed: 84.5 x 102 x 6.5 cm (33 1/4 x 40 3/16 x 2 9/16 in.); Unframed: 70.5 x 90 cm (27 3/4 x 35 7/16 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1928.8
Counterclockwise horse racing in the United States was not standardized until the 1920s.
Ryder’s subject was inspired by a horse race that took place in New York during 1888. One of the artist’s friends wagered $500 on the race and then died by suicide after the horse lost. Medieval symbolism infuses the composition: death appears as a skeleton on horseback holding a scythe with which he cuts down the living, while a snake—a sign of temptation and evil—slithers in the foreground. An intense man, Ryder worked on the painting for several years and was deeply reluctant to part with it.
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