The present Scène de cirque is the first of four drawings that Picasso created on 22 September 1968, and the only one drawn that day which the artist rendered in color. The theme of the circus is one which permeates Picasso’s late drawings and prints. The setting is Picasso's typical “theater of memory,” in which the artist has placed himself as an observer in a scene that alludes to events from his past, often distant ones. Picasso, in the form of the gaping, bearded male figure seated at left, looks on as a female rider balances atop a stallion, an emblem of the artist's libido. The horse arches its neck and shoulders as it charges forward breathing flames and with its male member fully erect. A second gargantuan bare-breasted female presides over the ring, appearing as if she is actually perched on the man's knees.
John Richardson has identified the source of these circus fantasies as Picasso's memories of Rosita del Oro, a well-known circus rider and the artist’s first girlfriend when he was still an adolescent living with his parents and family in Barcelona. Richardson writes, "The conquest of this star equestrienne by a boy just turned fifteen says a lot for his personality and sexual magnetism. Nor was this a short-lived adolescent fling; it was a relationship that lasted on and off for a number of years. At the very end of his life, however, Rosita comes back to haunt Picasso. His lifelong passion for the circus, his identification with acrobats and clowns, stems from this early romance" (A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, Vol. I p. 68).