Raft of Medusa Painting

WHO WAs théodore Géricault?

Géricault’s brief career had a significant effect on the development of modern art, particularly the growth of French 19th-century painting.

raft of medusa in context

Théodore Géricault opted to represent this event to commence his career with a large-scale uncommissioned piece on a topic that has already piqued the public’s curiosity.

analysis of the artwork

The painting portrays a scene that followed after the French naval ship Méduse‘s wreck, which went aground off the coastline of modern-day Mauritania on the 2nd of July, 1816.

contextual background

Méduse set sail from Rochefort in 1816, heading for the port of Saint-Louis in Senegal. The purpose of the ship was to acknowledge the British surrender of Senegal as part of France’s approval of the Treaty of Paris.


Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa depicts the exact moment when the surviving 15 last survivors, following 13 days of being lost afloat the ocean on the raft, see a ship arriving on the horizon.


Géricault was attracted by reports of the well-publicized 1816 shipwreck and realized that depicting the incident may help him build his career as a painter.

exhibition of the artwork

The Raft of Medusa painting was initially presented at the 1819 Paris Salon under the title Shipwreck Scene, despite the fact that its true topic would have been obvious to modern visitors.

reception of the artwork

The artwork was given a gold medal by the panel of judges at the end of the show, but it did not receive the higher honor of being selected for the Louvre’s national inventory.