Circus performers were a popular subject among artists and both the joy of the spectacle and the often challenging life “behind the scenes” were easily understood by audiences. Meyerheim may have also been drawn to the subject in part because of his aptitude for painting animals, developed early in his career through observation at the Berlin Zoological Gardens. A contemporary review describes the work as a “splendidly depicted circus scene in which a comical equestrienne is conducting a comedy enacted by a monkey and a poodle. Their action is reflected with wonderful effect in the faces of the audience, young and old, rich and poor; and amongst these, the painter has portrayed himself, standing at the end of the row, with spectacles, and a round felt hat, his smiling face surrounded with a full beard” (The Art Journal, p. 304).
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