Raft of the Medusa

In 2018 The Louvre boasted the most visitors ever! I think we have Beyonce and Jay-Z to thank for that.

They are super impressed.
I Googled the second most visited piece of art at the Louvre, assuming Mona Lisa would crush all its competition, but was surprised by what I found! As far as I could tell there is no top ten list based on visitors (I mean, I guess that would be really hard to track…) but there are tons of articles with speculative lists, and in the top three of almost all of them is… Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericualut. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Or small wave, if you will.

If you look carefully there is a ship in the distance. So it’s not all doom and gloom. I guess.

Raft of the Medusa is giant, which is why I remember it at the Louvre, but that’s maybe the only reason. I walked quickly by it on my way to the much less gory Venus de Milo(also on the aforementioned top ten lists!) because it is depressing. And a little too realistic for my taste. And that was before I knew it was based on a real-life event. The ship had about 150 men and fought three battles in the Napoleonic Wars before crashing. Only ten men survived (because cannibalism) and built the raft that was nearly as big as the painting!

Painting: 16’ x 23.5’

Actual raft: 23’ x 66’

It’s no wonder it was difficult for me to really stare at, and not just because I’m a big wimp. Not only is it huge, but Gericault was genius in his depiction of the survivors and the dead. Before putting brush to canvas he did his homework by studying drowned corpses and using wax models to get the tragic atmosphere just right.

Gericault worried the painting was a total failure. He certainly didn’t guess it would be considered an icon of French Romanticism and one of the most visited paintings at the most famous art museum in the world. I bet even Beyonce and Jay-Z would be impressed by his legacy.

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