"One of the most beautiful, strangest, and terrible spectacles one could see is a bullfight," wrote Édouard Manet to his friend the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire in 1865. Fascinated by bullfights, Manet here chose to illustrate the violent moment of a bull goring a horse with its horn. While the horse is pinned against the arena, the torero, dressed in red and still clutching his cape, escapes by jumping over the barrier. The picador or "horse-master" is caught helplessly between his mount and the wall while two spectators try to lift him to safety.
Manet probably made this drawing at the scene of an actual bullfight. He used an energetic and gestural line to define the forms for the bodies of the bull and horse. Thin lines of black watercolor delineate the figures, and applied shades of color give three-dimensional form. Touches of yellow, red, blue, and brown animate the crowd of spectators, while economically applied black paint suggests details such as facial features.