He had a particular fascination for this topic which fitted well with his style of French Romanticism. Multiple study drawings exist for many of these paintings which allow us to understand more about his method of preparation. It was the combination of inner turmoil with faces of extreme emotion which perhaps attracted him to this section of society. In many cases the mentally ill subjects have actually been the artist’s themselves, such is nature of creative genius.
Within this period he would address subjects with different mental health issues and these can be contrasted visually to get an idea for how society would perhaps treat them differently, depending on their behaviour. There is also perhaps an element of pity which Gericault felt for these individuals, seeing them as forgotten by society and deserving of greater attention and aid.
This honest depiction captures the many features to be found in any ageing face, where the impact of one's life is told as a story by the various imperfections of what now remains. This is then exaggerated by the mental issues of these particular individuals whose behaviour, perhaps over many years, would not have been as normal as anyone else.
Since the Renaissance many artists have captured the rich and famous, be them noblemen, glamorous princesses or perhaps a wealthy donor. There were some, however, who felt inspiration from the other end of society, even though there would be little reward, financially, to be found here.