"Père Junier" used to sell vegetables that he would go to buy every morning from the market gardeners in Bagneux or Verrière-le-Buisson. He had been a friend of Rousseau’s for many years; his wife used to cook for him. As the painter owed him some money and M. Junier had just bought a horse of which he was very proud, it was agreed that Rousseau would do a painting of it.
Rousseau worked from a photograph. However he made several important changes that reveal his creative process. He omitted a tree on the boulevard and played particularly on the size and position of the three dogs. These have a visual function. The fat black dog gives depth to the cart. We know that when Max Weber commented to Rousseau that the black dog was too big in relation to the overall scale of the painting, the artist retorted that his painting demanded this. The miniature dog, on the other hand, trotting in front of the cart gives a monumentality to the mare. She stands rather curiously on the tips of her hooves, thus highlighting the shadows cast on the ground. This mare, like a dancer on her points, seems almost suspended in space. Rousseau was very fond of this type of paradox, which makes some characters float in a purely pictorial space.
The passengers in the cart, with the exception of Monsieur Junier, are shown in strict frontality like Byzantine icons.
Provenance: M. Junier; P. Rosenberg, Paris; A. Vollard, Paris (1918); Paul Guillaume (1927); Domenica Walter