Minotaurs (half-bull, half-man hybrids from Greek mythology) and horses are fairly common characters in Picasso's work. In addition to the painting above, the wounded horse makes an appearance in Guernica, one of Picasso's most famous paintings. Both figures also pop up elsewhere in the exhibition in prints that Picasso made in the 1930s.
Bulls would have been recognized as emblems of Spain, but minotaurs represented man's irrational impulses and perhaps appropriately can be found in other works in the exhibition in orgy-like scenes. Some suggest that Picasso himself identified with this character.
In this painting, the minotaur acts as torero and aggressor, having just gored the horse in the middle of a crowded bull-fighting ring. But the turmoil in this painting might be a little more complex. It was painted at a time when Picasso was struggling with both his wife Olga and his mistress Marie-Thérèse, as well as unrest brewing in his native Spain.
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