(b. 1791, Rouen, d. 1824, Paris)

The Raft of the Medusa (detail)

Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The most horrifying part of the shipwreck had been the drama of 149 wretches abandoned on a raft with only some casks of wine to live on, and the ensuing drunkenness and abominations. When the frigate Argus found the raft, after many days, she was only able to rescue fifteen survivors, of whom five died after being brought ashore. After some hesitation, Géricault chose this last episode — the sighting of the Argus by the survivors on the raft. With regard to the latter, he set himself to the task of carrying out an inquest as thoroughly as any examining magistrate. He rented a studio opposite the Beaujon hospital, so that he could make anatomical studies of the dying.