The present work is one of a series of studies which Delaunay executed during the preparation of his monumental L'Equipe de Cardiff, in the Musée d'Arte Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
As was the case with his celebrated La Ville de Paris of the previous year, now in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Delaunay's inspiration for these works came from a photograph, spotted in a newspaper. The snapshot caught the strenous movements of rugby players leaping up in a group to catch the ball, playing alongside a huge revolving ferris wheel. This juxtaposition of contrasting motions was to become the basis of the compositions in Delaunay's resulting images. The first completed sketch of the theme appeared in his one-man exhibition in Berlin in January 1913.
The striking handling of colour in the present work is symptomatic of the Equipe de Cardiff series, about which Delaunay commented "L'Equipe de Cardiff is more significant than La Ville de Paris in the expression of colour, less broken. The yellow poster in the middle of the picture contrasts with the blues, the greens, the orange; it is a measure of colour that counts as colour" (R. Delaunay, Du Cubisme à l'Art Abstrait, Paris, 1957, p. 98).
"Sports in general were seen during this epoch as representative of the 'speed-action' spirit of modern life. Delaunay has here depicted the rugby players in a lightening flash scene, capturing the game's intensity of movement....The rugby players were thus representative of the energy and action of the twentieth-century" (S. A. Buckberrough, Robert Delaunay, The Discovery of Simultaneity, Michigan, 1982, pp. 167-169).
A signboard with the word "ASTRA" was included from the start of the evolution of the theme. Astra Société Constructions was a well known aircraft company. "The airplane provided another, soon to be pre-eminent, symbol of the modern spirit: a sport of the highest order, a result of the advances of modern technology, and a physical means of conquering the distances which the radio and telegraph covered in an abstract manner" (S. A. Buckberrough, op. cit., p. 169).
The banner in the present work, framing part of the artist's name, is another common characteristic of the Equippe de Cardiff series. "Delaunay obviously associated himself with the concepts of modernity, construction, and simultaneity, and saw himself as a major publicity force for the cause. The fact that the word 'DELAUNAY' emerged from the shoulder of the main rugby player [in the final oil] cannot be ignored. As a prime representative of the new breed of 'modern man', Delaunay certainly felt akin to a leaping player" (ibid, p. 172).
Several works from the L'Equippe de Cardiff series are now housed in major international institutions including the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich and the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.