Week 10

The Raft of the Medusa (French: Le Radeau de la Méduse) is an oil painting of 1818–1819 by the French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault (1791–1824). Completed when the artist was just 27, the work has become an icon of French Romanticism. At 491 cm × 716 cm (193.3 in × 282.3 in), it is an over-life-size painting that depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today's Mauritania on July 5, 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation, dehydration, cannibalism and madness. The event became an international scandal, in part because its cause was widely attributed to the incompetence of the French captain acting under the authority of the recently restored French monarchy.(Wikipedia)



Jonathan Miles,

The Wreck of the Medusa,

Grove Press paperback,

ISBN 080214392X

From Booklist:

An iconic painting of the Romantic era, Le radeau de la Méduse, by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), immortalized a French maritime disaster in 1816. Unpacking the visual power of the image, author Miles proves to be both an astute art historian and a dramatic chronicler of the catastrophe. Several people survived to record accounts; these ignited a political scandal in France as the royalist captain's incompetence and callousness stoked criticism of the restored Bourbon Thurs.archy. Sensing an opportunity, Géricault faced the challenge of determining what moment of the survival drama to depict, for survivors' accounts contained discrepancies. He decided to omit riot, murder, and cannibalism and to include elements condemning Louis XVIII's regime, such as the accusing, outstretched arm of survivor Alexandre Corréard. Since Corréard's story changed in successive editions, Miles is wary about Corréard's factual fidelity, lending historical depth to the narrative without detracting from Miles' insights into the suffering and betrayal provoked by Géricault's morbid masterpiece. Relating its popular reception, along with the subsequent lives of artist and subject, Miles crafts a captivating gem about art's relation to history. Taylor, Gilbert Copyright © American Library Association.

The Raft of the Medusa hanging in the Louvre.