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Raft of the Medusa

Raft of Medusa

The Raft of Medusa by French artist Theodore Gericault
Original design sketch of the 20 metre by 7 metre raft
Detail of The Raft of Medusa by French artist Theodore Gericault
The tomb of Theodore Gericault
Portrait of French artist Theodore Gericault
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Why were French sailors marooned?

And why did a sea tragedy drive a young artist mad?

On July 5th, 1816, a French passenger ship went aground off the coast of Africa.  Of 147 crew members consigned to a life raft, only 15 survived.

The Raft of the Medusa is Theodore Gericault's dark depiction of the sailors' plight, cast adrift in shark-infested waters.

Why did this tragedy at sea shame France? And why did commemorating the tragedy drive artist Theodore Gericault insane?

All is revealed in Museum Secrets: Inside the Louvre.

Painting a Tragedy

Why were the sailors set adrift?  And what depths did they sink to in order to survive?  For the answers, we invite you to watch our Web Exclusive Video:  Sea Tragedy.

Painting a Manifesto

Gericault's painting is not simply a portrait of a tragedy.  It contains philosophical and political messages for his fellow citizens. To discover these messages, and why their meaning resonates even today, we invite you to watch our Web Exclusive Video: Painting as Manifesto.

Further Questions

Survivor accounts speak of cannibalism. Yet the artist chose not to show it in The Raft of the Medusa. Did he portray cannibalism in any other painting? The answer is yes. Cannibalism is shown with shocking clarity in this early study.


tribal569 • #44 • 2018-03-24 10:36:36
This is a very powerful painting the story is both gripping and really sends you into an abyss of misury hopelessness, sorrow and most of all triumph of the human spirit the darkness of unforgiving survival and to be at the mercy of the ocean. It is

patricia • #82 • 2018-03-24 10:36:35
The story of the Artist painting this is fascinating the length he went to, to achieve perfection.. are unbelievable..

Anthony • #90 • 2018-03-24 10:36:35
This is a great painting to use as a stimulus with school children to look at painting as a protest against slavery and against incompetent and unjust governments. The process that Gericault went through to make the painting is also a good story and