“The Raft of the Medusa” by artist Theodore Gericault; 1819.
Originally called Scene de Naufrage (Shipwreck Scene) it depicts sailors in the aftermath of the French frigate Meduse running aground of the North West African country Senegal in 1816. 150 sailors hastily built a raft to escape the sandbank that had taken their ship. Those on the raft, originally promised they would be towed by those on life boats were quickly cut adrift.
With a meagre collection of food and drink those on the semi buoyant raft turned quickly down a dark and brutal path. By the second night the situation had drawn out an animalistic capability buried deep inside the human psyche as “a rabble of combustible professional killers” tore through each other. Murder, suicide and even cannibalism took place over the course of a 13 day odyssey where only 15 would see the end alive.
Gericault questioned and documented the survivors as well as sketching them with those in the painting showing a range of human emotion from the hope of catching the attention of the distant ship, to despair and abandonment of rescue.