The Raft of the Medusa: Géricault, Art, and Race
Based on a controversial and politically charged event, The Raft of the Medusa is Gericault's most ambitious work. The painting depicts the wreck of a French government ship off the West African coast, and its passengers' desperate struggle to survive. Since its unveiling in 1819, this masterpiece has been both decried and admired for its unrelenting realism and for its unrelenting realism and for its ground-breaking portrayal of the ship's survivors. Here Alhadeff revises the standard reading of The Raft as a realistic depiction of a tragic event, highlighting instead the ambiguities Gericault has woven into the scene. These ambivalences, he argues, reveal as much about Gericault's artistic brilliance as they do about the advent of abolitionism in the turbulent society in which he lived.
Elegantly written and illustrated with many details from the painting as well as rarely seen comparative works, this is a provocative new look at a work which remains central to the history of modernity in art.
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