Theodore Gericault made these paintings during a low point in his life. His painting The Raft of Medusa was awarded a gold medal in the 1819 Paris Salon but was not bought by the Louvre. Gericault took it as a huge loss and fell into depression as he saw it as one of his greatest works. The painting is an image of an elderly woman believed to be suffering from malicious envy and hysteria. The image has a sympathetic display of the woman’s inner sufferings displayed through her facial expression. The woman’s face has a twisted expression with her head leaning slightly forward and her mouth showing disapproval from its drawn back appearance.
Theodore was a romanticism painter who shared the same view with doctors that mental illness could be expressed in the faces of the victims. The painting is made of vibrant autumnal colours that give it a soft and warm appearance. The woman’s clothes are painted with vermillion and russet, and her skin is a combination of flesh, peach and browns improved by the cream used for her grey hair. The artist uses fine brush strokes when painting the woman’s face to display each line and portray the underlying state of her life. Gericault also gives the image a dark background to bring the woman’s portrait to the attention of the viewer.
Friends of Louvre donated the painting to the museum in 1938. It was previously among the collection of a Baden-Baden doctor. Today, it is displayed in the Musee du Louvre Museum in Paris France with the museum as the owner. The painting was, however, separated from the other images painted at the same time after they were sold individually at varying periods.
The works of Charles Bell, who was a French physician, psychiatrist and scholar, was influential in the works of Theodore Gericault. Bell published a book about madness in 1806 that had images that influenced Theodore Gericault in completing his ten portraits of people with mental illnesses. Another influencer of Gericault's art was his predecessor Antoine-Jean Gros who had an academic approach of painting. Theodore is also known to have inspired Eugene Delacrox who later became one of the best Romantic artists.