From the mid-15th century until 1882, spring carnival in Rome closed with a horse race. Fifteen to 20 riderless horses, originally imported from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, ran the length of the Via del Corso, a long, straight city street, in about 2½ minutes. Throughout his career, Géricault lovingly depicted the horse as a metaphor for unfettered emotion and power. The artist initially planned to paint a canvas of this subject more than 30 feet in width; he completed 20 small oil studies before abandoning the project. In other variations on this theme, Géricault set the race in ancient, rather than contemporary, Rome.