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The collapse of the raft "Medusa"

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1819, 491×716 cm • Oil, Canvas

Description of the artwork «The collapse of the raft "Medusa"»

Grand canvas "The collapse of the raft" Medusa " (about 7 meters in length and 5 in height) - the most famous work of the French romantic artist Theodore Gericault. Presented at the Salon of 1819, it became a sensation and scandal, but did not bring the author either recognition or money. On the contrary, Jericho was persecuted in royalist and academic circles. Five years later, he died in poverty, before this unsuccessfully trying to sell the Louvre his best picture - "The collapse of the raft" Medusa.

It is based on very recent real events. After 2 years, when Gericault finished work, they still remained in France at the hearing. An inexperienced and indecisive navigator, emigrant Guyg Duroy, Count de Chaumaret, taking advantage of the corruption among French officials, bought himself the position of captain of the royal frigate Medusa. On June 18, 1816, the ship set off to the shores of West Africa, but because of the lack of professionalism of the captain, she sat on stones near the Cape Verde Islands. When it became clear that it would not be possible to move the ship, and the food and supplies were running out, boats were allocated to the captain, the governor and other dignitaries, and for the 149 remaining passengers, a raft was hastily built on which they set off for an unpredictable drift.

It was assumed that the boats will help him to tow. But they treacherously and cowardly disappeared from view, leaving the crowded raft one on one with the water element. Very soon, people began to lose their human appearance. Fighting for safe places at the mast and the last drops of water, they fought, killing each other and pushing them into the water. Only after 13 days, the unfortunate saw the rescue ship “Argus” on the horizon - it was this moment that Jericho captured.

The “Argus” team had an eerie spectacle: 15 of the 149 survived (five of them died almost immediately after the rescue). Frozen corpses interspersed with half-dead. The survivors poured on the mast the meat of the dead.

Working on the "Jellyfish" raft, Zheriko spent almost a year as a hermit in his workshop. So that nothing distracts him from the work, he even shaved his head bald. It painfully sought that the angles and postures of the people he portrayed were true. For this, he sculpted wax figures, combining them in different positions on a toy raft. Zheriko was not satisfied with the work of the sitters - he came to the conclusion that posing never looks natural. Then he began to visit hospitals, where he observed and sketched the dying, and then morgues. His awesome sketches with severed headsand piled up human limbs - from there.

The main achievement of Zheriko in "The crash of the raft" Medusa "was the most complex composition. Realizing the limitations of the frontal alignment of figures, Jericho unfolds the composition deep into. The space of the picture is not just three-dimensional - it delays the viewer. Pay attention to the corpse at the lower edge of the picture - it seems that his head submerged under the water goes just under the frame and, therefore, it turns out to be in our real space.

To many, Gericault’s picture was a metaphor of state decline, an allegory of post-Napoleonic France. And although Gericault solved not social, but purely artistic tasks, they saw in it the accusation of the existing system, which is why, at home, such outstanding work did not at first receive approval. Fortunately, Gericault still managed to enjoy the recognition of his main work: someone advised him to take a picture to London, where at that time there was a stormy artistic life. In the English capital to the "Raft" Medusa "lined up the queue. In just one month, more than 50 thousand people watched it. This was the beginning of the triumphal drift of the “Crash of the Medusa's Raft” into the history of European art.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork
Subject and objects: Genre scene, Historical scene
Style of art and technique: Romanticism, Oil

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