Three acrobats attend to a female rider who has had an accident. Her inert body is carried from the ring, while the horse that has caused the tragedy is led away. Closer to the foreground, a figure bending over in the shadows turns his back on the viewer in a sign of grief. In this work the circus reveals its dual nature, in which merriment can instantly transform itself into profound sadness and in which danger and death constantly lie in wait. The fragile rider and the circus can be related to August Macke, an artist who felt himself to be located on the margins of society in a way comparable to circus people.
In 1913 Macke had moved away from the Die Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider] Expressionist group and his wanderings had taken him to Paris. His interest in Futurism, particularly the work of his close friend Robert Delaunay, is evident in this work in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Mackes focus on the expressive value of colour was combined with a fragmented concept of space derived from Delaunay in works that became the German successors to that French painters chromatic Cubism.