The Raft of the Medusa: A Horrific Tale of Survival Amid the Ocean

The Raft of the Medusa featured image

Art is a depiction of happening events, either in reality or in an artist’s imagination.

Not necessarily that the events will always be pleasant or serene!

And that is what lands us on the painting we are going to talk about today.

The Raft of the Medusa!

It is one of the famous paintings of Romanticism and also a creation that has sparked a lot of controversies and debates.

But nevertheless, it still remains one of the most famous paintings of all time.

A tale of suffering, sacrifice, rebellion, and power is what the raft of the Medusa is about.

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And, guess what? 

It is a painting that was painted by a 27-year-old artist Théodore Géricault.

I will be briefing you about him in the next part, and from there we will be looking into the depths of the painting: the Raft of the Medusa! 

Happy Reading!

About the Artist- Théodore Géricault

About the artist theodore gericault
Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the most famous and leading artists of Romanticism Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, was born on September 26, 1791. 

As a master of French painting, he loved drawing horses and dramatic subjects in his artwork.

He hails from Rouen, France and moved to Paris in his early stages of life.

After starting his training in 1808, Géricault studied under Carle Vernet, who imparted to him the English sporting art tradition.

Soon he got bored of the classroom studies, which led him to move to the Louvre to understand and adapt art in-depth.

He worked and copied the styles of a lot of artists, including  Rubens, Rembrandt, etc.

The Charging Chasseur, Géricault’s debut major work, debuted at the 1812 Paris Salon.

He created some phenomenal artworks in his life, of which the most famous work of art remains the Raft of the Medusa. 

So, let us read about the Raft of the Medusa in-depth.

Story Behind the Raft of the Medusa

The story behind the Raft of the medusa
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Raft of the Medusa acts as a mirror to the harsh brutalities and bullying of the French government.

It is a romantic masterpiece by the famous artist Théodore Géricault.

It stands for the oppression that the wealthy monarchy members inflict on the less fortunate groups in society.

With roughly 400 passengers on board, the French warship Medusa sailed toward Senegal in 1816. 

The 53-year-old Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, who had not commanded a frigate in his previous 25 years at sea, was named captain. 

This journey was cut short when the frigate lost control and struck a sandbar. 

By climbing into the lifeboats and abandoning their passengers and crew members to deal with the aftermath of the terrible mishap, the officers managed to avert the disaster. 

This 20-meter-long platform, known as the Raft of the Medusa, carried 150 people who were lost at sea for 13 days before the frigate Argus discovered them, leaving only 15 of them alive.

The Raft of the Medusa was a horrific tale of brutality, cannibalism and torture by the high class society for those who were in the common crowd. 

Analysis of the Artwork

Analysis of the painting
Image Source: Wikipedia, compiled by PortraitFlip

Romanticism is symbolized by the Raft of the Medusa. 

It is an oil painting that was created by keeping a sensitive issue in mind. 

The pale bodies are emphasized by strong contrasts between light and dark.

Some struggle in a state of exhilaration brought on by hope, while others pay no attention to the passing ship. 

It shows two depressed people; one of them is grieving for his son, and the other is cursing his fate.

Many artists were influenced by it to reject the rigidity of Neoclassicism and adopt the dramatics and fluidity of the Renaissance. 

The Raft of the Medusa served as an inspiration for numerous works and movements that came after it, many of which were based on criticism. 

The artwork aims to raise viewers’ awareness of the consequences of war while providing a window into French society. 

Also Read: Neoclassical Paintings

Subjects In the Painting

Subjects of the raft of the medusa
Image Source: Wikipedia, compiled by PortraitFlip

When you take a look at the Raft of the Medusa, you see a dark themed painting with a lot of chaos in a single frame.

This painting features the dead and the survivors of the horrific incident at Medusa.

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You can see a ship at a distance in the sea, but that is almost minutely drawn by the artist, and you can also see the raft of the ship the survivors are sailing is torn.

Also, the main aspect of this painting is the sea.

Focusing on the ocean tides, we can see that the ocean is not calm, and aggressive tides can be seen throwing the raft off the shore.

Piles of dead bodies can also be seen, which creates a vision of a havock and also gives off an illusion of a tragedy that just took place.

The Raft of the Medusa has a lot of emotions packed into a single frame and it describes the grief, the agony and the pain of the common men in French society.

Also Read: Famous French Artists

Controversial Artwork

Controversy related to the painting
Image Source: Wikipedia, compiled by PortraitFlip

Every art has its own story behind it, and with an intriguing hook, an art follows a controversy.

Even though Géricault lived a pretty decent life with no chaos and only learning from his fellow artist friends and mentors,

Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa was actually a very intricate and critical piece of art.

It sensetively pointed towards the French monarchy and thus was labeled as a very controversial painting.

Soon after it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1819, this painting received a lot of backlash from the authorities responsible for art.

Many art critics have labeled Géricault’s Raft of Medusa as a very gruesome and triggering painting.

People have also said that it is a very dark themed painting that almost gives it a gothic look.

PS: King Louis XVIII has warned Géricault that he is himself responsible for the downfall he will face just because of the painting he has created.

Nevertheless, even after facing a lot of backlash and speculation, Géricault’s raft of Medusa has still made its way to one of the most prestigious museums in the world.

Wanna know where The Raft of the Medusa is housed? Read further to learn more.

Suggested Read: Famous Gothic Paintings

Where is The Raft of the Medusa Now?

The raft of the medusa hanging by the wall of Louvre museum.
Image Source: khanacademy

Now that we have understood what the raft of the Medusa is about, it is time to know where exactly the painting is housed.

It is a common question that where is the painting kept safely, and is it up for the viewers?

It is a massive painting, with almost the dimensions being 16 feet by 24 feet.

The Raft of the Medusa is housed at one of the most prestigious museums in the world, the Louvre Museum in Paris.

It is placed along with some of the paintings in the Louvre museum and is mounted on the wall in the Louvre’s Denon Wing.

Fun fact: The Raft of the Medusa is mounted around the corner wall of the Mona Lisa.


The world might be a cruel place to live in, and the raft of the medusa portrays the same message.

I have discussed all the characteristics, features and meaning of this painting of the raft of Medusa in this blog.

On closer inspection, you can observe that this painting is not just about the survivors, the fighters and the worker class men.

But this painting acted as a voice for the common men of France.

Those who were bullied and snapped by the men of higher and richer society—the raft of the medusa—are their voice of protest.

This painting not only gives us a perspective on life, but it also gives us a hint of how the people in the era of Romanticism took a toll on issues like this.

This painting represents a sense of rebellion, bravery and scarcity all at once.

So, if you are interested in getting your hands on this painting, then worry not; we can get you an exact replica of this painting and also other famous paintings like this.

Author’s Epilogue

Hey dear readers, 

If you are still here, then thank you so much for staying till the end!

This was all about the famous painting of the Raft of the Medusa.

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See you soon; till then, stay hydrated!

Bye bye!


Which period does the raft of the medusa belong to?

The Raft of the Medusa is a painting that belongs to the period of Romanticism.

What is the ultimate lesson behind the painting of the Raft of Medusa?

The Raft of the Medusa symbolizes the common French men getting oppressed by the men of rich society.

Who has painted the Raft of the Medusa, and when?

The Raft of the Medusa was painted in 1818-1819 by French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault.

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