Théodore Géricault
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Basic Information

Théodore Géricault was a French artist, known for his works in the medium of painting and lithography, mostly in the style known as Romanticism. He lived from 1791 to 1824. Much of his artwork had military themes.

His most famous work is Raft of the Medusa, an epic painting detailing the fates of the crew and passengers of The Medusa, a ship that wrecked in 1816. Nearly 150 people were set adrift on a makeshift raft when The Medusa went down, and only 15 of them survived, after having to resort to cannibalism. The sinking was a national disgrace, and an international scandal. Many attributed the wreck to the French Captain acting under the authority of the recently restored French Monarchy.

Later, Gericault painted a series of portraits of 10 insane people, each with a different form of insanity. The subjects of his paintings were the patients of his friend Dr Etienne-Jean Georget. These included portraits of a kidnapper, a kleptomaniac, a gambling addict, and a woman "consumed with envy". Only 5 of the 10 paintings have survived to the modern era.

He also painted still-lifes of severed heads and limbs.

At the time of his death, Gericault was working on additional epic works, reminiscent of his Raft of the Medusa. These new compositions focused on the Spanish Inquisition, and the African Slave Trade.


Game and Story Use

  • With the portraits of mental patients and severed limbs, Gericault seems like a natural character for any supernatural horror game set in the 1800s. Unfortunately, he died while Edgar Allen Poe was only 15, but if you play loose with the calendar, you might contrive a way to make them both feel at home in the same setting.
  • Games set after that era, could easily use his works as reference materials, or as part of a sinister backstory.
    • In a Cthulhu-esque game, his now-lost portraits of the insane might have unsettling effects on those who view them. Only the less harmful works might be known publicly to have survived, and the disturbing ones are in some collector's vault, or a back room at the Louvre.
    • There's an odd humor in the notion that pictures of the Romantic movement might have some sinister power or backstory. Many of his lesser works put a heroic or pretty face on what would in real life be very traumatic.
    • Perhaps his paintings might have a reverse Dorian Grey effect, dragging the madness out of the subject and imprisoning it in canvas. Destroying one might be a really bad idea.
  • The Medusa is certainly an interesting name for a ship, isn't it? In the real world, it's a harmless classical reference, but in an RPG it may have a more sinister meaning.
    • What caused the disaster, and are there clues to it hidden in Gericault's work?
  • He died of tubercular infection, but in an RPG setting, it could be that someone killed him to prevent the completion of his final works, one of which was called "Opening The Doors of the Spanish Inquisition".
  • The Raft of the Medusa is loaded with symbolism and meaning, so it could be featured in an art collection, auction, or art heist as a corroborating detail to reinforce your story themes about the failure, incompetence, or malfeasance of a captain or other representative agent of a government. (Like it did when it recently appeared on-screen during episode 5 of Falcon & The Winter Soldier.) Or, you know, to foreshadow an upcoming subplot about a sinking ship, or some other terrible disaster scenario, maybe even a donner party sort of situation. It's got a lot of history and significance, and a cool enough name to catch your players attention and possibly inspire them to go look it up on wikipedia.
  • If your game is set in the right era, you might have the PCs end up on the Medusa, or have a character in the game whose backstory was surviving that, or maybe a raft of dead bodies washes up not far from the campaign. 1816 is also the year they called "Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death", so there's a number of terrifying elements to play into a horror story set therein.
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