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2024Theodore Gericault 1791-1824 - Set

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  • 03.06.2024
About Theodore Gericault 1791-1824

The sinking of the colonial frigate Méduse off the coast of present-day Mauritania on July 2, 1816 shook Restoration France. Of the approximately 150 passengers and crew members who took refuge on a makeshift raft, towed by canoes then abandoned by order of Captain Duroy de Chaumareys, less than fifteen had survived.

This drama was immortalized by Théodore Géricault (Rouen 1791-Paris 1824) in one of the most famous paintings in the Louvre, The Raft of the Medusa, revealed at the Salon of 1819.

In his early days, Géricault devoted himself to painting horses, his passion, and military themes. Returning from Italy in the fall of 1817, he was looking for new current topics. The atrocious assassination of the former magistrate Fualdès, in Rodez, inspired him with the idea of ​​a large composition, which was ultimately abandoned. For his first important work, it was the affair of the Medusa that he chose, fascinated by the story of two survivors.

Rather than the sinking of the frigate, it represents the raft and its passengers, abandoned in the open sea. In rags, some agonize among the corpses, others stand up, seeing a ship, their last hope of survival.

The composition is developed using wax figures arranged on a model of the raft, made at Géricault's request by the former carpenter of the Méduse. Transforming his workshop into an annex to the morgue, the artist painted severed heads and limbs from life and observed the ravages of the disease in the hospital. On the Normandy coast, he carried out studies of sky and sea. Epic and terrifying, the final work, 7 m long, baffled the public of 1819. A tragic vision of human destiny, it established itself as the one of the major works of romanticism, with universal scope.