Painting Study - Theodore Gericault - The Raft Of The Medusa

Preston, England
October 23, 2017 8:39am CST
1819 – Oil on canvas. A classic example of French Romanticism art, and possibly one of the most horrific paintings ever created, especially as the event depicted is totally true. In 1816, the French frigate, The Meduse (Medusa) set sail for Senegal. It never made it. The captain, Duroy de Chaumereys, was in command after twenty years of staying on land. In an arrogant effort to catch up with and overtake other ships in the small convoy on the voyage, the Medusa ended up a hundred miles off course, and crashed into a sandbank off the coast of Mauritania. After three days, the crew realized getting the ship free was impossible so they agreed to a plan to abandon ship, using the six lifeboats to reach the coast of Mauritania itself, sixty miles away. There was a problem. The boats could only carry 250 people, leaving 146 to account for. A crude makeshift raft was built, with plans to tow it behind the boats. The few women and children on the ship were mercifully given places in the lifeboats. Unfortunately, not everyone could fit on the raft, so men had to be in the water, clinging to the raft, and rotated round to give everyone a period of being dry. Shark attacks and drownings soon induced panic and even on day one of the voyage many on the raft died in a desperate game of King Of The Castle. With some men swimming for the overcrowded boats the crews of those, in fear of being capsized, cut the ropes to set the raft drifting free. The boats safely reached the coast. The raft was left drifting out to sea. Passengers killed the crew, blaming them for the whole sorry mess and in the now constant fight, the food and water was swept overboard. Wine flasks survived but those who drank the wine were now violently drunk. The panic stricken passengers even resorted to cannibalism. There was no search party looking for the raft, which was finally spotted thirteen days later by sheer chance by a passing ship, The Argus. Of the 146 who boarded her, only fifteen were still alive. Gericault captures the moment the Argus was sighted by the desperate survivors, bringing their unbelievable Hell to an end. Gericault was careful to go for realism in his study. He examined the remains of the raft and hired three of the survivors to serve as technical advisors for his study, as well as a carpenter to build a scale model of the raft from which to create the study. The painting is seen as depicting the general madness of European society and human nature at its most tooth and claw rather than just the story of a uniquely horrific shipwreck tragedy. Though the survivors were found emaciated and dehydrated, Gericault depicts them as muscular, and strong, presenting them as heroes, though their fate had none of the stiff-upper lip, stoic acceptance of the struggle. The reality is that these survivors won a dog eat dog fight against terrible odds. They were lucky, and perhaps ruthless, rather than truly heroic. The painting on Wikipedia Arthur Chappell
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search This article is about the painting. For the oratorio, see Das Floß der Medusa. For the film, see Le Radeau de la Méduse (film). The Raft of the Medusa French: Le Radeau de la Méduse Artist T
6 people like this
4 responses
@rachael5760 (2532)
• Israel
23 Oct
This is an Amazing story and derserves more historical attention. It ranks up there along with the story of the Titanic.
3 people like this
• Preston, England
23 Oct
@rachael5760 it would make a great if gory movie
3 people like this
@Corbin5 (78433)
• United States
23 Oct
That painting really is a disturbing one if one looks at it in detail.
2 people like this
• Preston, England
23 Oct
@Corbin5 yes, it is quite unsettling
2 people like this
@JudyEv (96469)
• Bunbury, Australia
24 Oct
Goodness, what a tale. I knew nothing of this.
2 people like this
@teamfreak16 (35065)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
25 Oct
Wow, I've never heard of this before. What a brutal history.
1 person likes this