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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Painting of the Month (10) October 2010: Géricault's 'Raft of the Medusa'

The Raft of the Medusa  Théodore Géricault 1818-19
If you are not familiar with this painting it is probably not what you might think it is at first glance. It looks like a typical 'history painting', a genre that usually depicts great events from history often biblical, mythical or classical subjects.
However, this picture depicts an event that happened just two years before it was painted. The Medusa was a French vessel that sank just off the coast of what is now Mauritania creating a public scandal because it's captain was incompetent and the whole event reflected badly on the newly re-installed monarchy.
We see the vessel after 13 days at sea. Only 15 of the 147 persons on the raft have survived. They have evaded death by starvation, madness, dehydration and cannibalism!
The survivors have just sighted the vessel that will rescue them. Meanwhile, in the foreground, people are dying.
Gericault (pronounced Zherico) acheived the fame that he craved because of this picture but, sadly, he died at the age of 32.


David said...

Dear bazza,
I love this painting. I am familiar with it, though, only because it was wittily used by "The Pogues" on the front of their album, "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash", which is a brilliant record, by the way. On that picture, the members of the band appear alongside the others on the raft.
Perhaps this could have been another quiz question, bazza. Mind you, I would have got it right again, which would have been no fun at all!
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

joanne fox said...

I have seen that painting before - maybe on the cover of the album David mentions above. It's certainly a very desperate scene.

bazza said...

David: Maybe I will pose a future quiz question on a painting. Thanks for the idea. "Rum, Sodomy & the Lash" would make a great sub-title for this picture when seen is on a monumental scale and very imposing. Thanks for visiting.

Hello Joanne: The story is certainly harrowing. I actually edited this post down as I don't think long posts interest people. It's quite easy, of course, to follow up on the extraordinary influence and effect of this painting via many internet sites.
I'm off to visit your site now!

THE SNEE said...

Hi Bazza,
Very desperate painting indeed! It reminds me of a navigation story I read about a Spanish crew who attempted to sail around the world but returned with just two or three sailors nearly dead with scurvy, but more aware of the earth's shape(round vs flat). Very apropos post given the recent findings on the Titanic and faulty navigational errors....Why do you think Gericault was inspired by this story? In the meantime, I'm still combing through your catacombs, I mean archives of heroes. Wow! you did a ton of writing in your other blog and it's fun to highlight some of the influential folks of our planet. Unlike this painting, I hope your weekend is glorious and bright Bazza!

bazza said...

Hi Snee: I think today it would be like painting a dramatic picture of BP's oil well exploding; something very topical and causing public outrage. He was very hungry for fame and he acheived it. He brought the painting to London and exhibited it himself. It was received much better here than in France.
I must have missed that recent Titanic story!
Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend yourself.

klahanie said...

Hi bazza,
I too am familiar with this painting and what my good friend, David, has alluded too.
You do a highly informative and fascinating blog, bazza. I very much appreciate your insights.
Enjoy your weekend.
With respect, Gary.

Sir Tom Eagerly said...

Good Lord Bazza! This won't cheer anyone up will it now? Cannibalism?
I bet they were all eying up the fat guys and thinking "He looks tasty".
Did you here about the two cannibals who were eating a clown when one said "Does this taste funny to you?".
Oh dear, I've let myself down again, haven't I?

bazza said...

Gary: Thanks for that generous comment. I suppose Sir Tom is right - I'll try to be more cheerful next time!

Sir Tom: Don't give up the day job (although somehow, I doubt that you have one!). Thanks for dropping by.

rob said...

I feel seasick just looking at it.

bazza said...

Rob: It could be worse; if you were there you might be feeling seasick and be having someone chomping at your leg!