Géricault and Lithography

Romanticism, the French way

By Château de Chantilly

Boxers (1818) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) was a French painter, sculptor, artist, and lithographer.

The Condé Museum in Chantilly holds an almost complete collection of his lithographs, acquired in 1866 by Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale (1822-1897), a Chantilly donor to the Institut de France.

Merchant going up a hill by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

Who is Géricault?

Particularly well-known for his depictions of horses, Géricault is a prominent figure of Romanticism—an artistic movement that spread throughout Europe during the first half of the 19th century.

Romanticism can be identified by an interest in emotions and nature, often through work on color and movement.

Géricault is also known for having used current events in his works: he shows the suffering of the soldiers of the Empire under Napoleon I (1804-1814/1815) and showed interest in the issue of slavery.

His most famous painting, The Raft of the Medusa, exhibited at the 1819 Salon and preserved in the Louvre, is a critique of the Restoration regime (1814-1830).

Artillery box (1818) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly


Lithography is a printing technique that uses lines drawn on a densely textured limestone. The intended surface for the drawing is sanded with sand and water and then the drawing is completed using chalk or greasy ink.

During the printing process, the stone is wetted and ink is deposited in the areas ingrained with the grease of the drawing. Moisture repels ink in areas that are not greased. The paper is then laid down and pressed.

This fast and cheap technique allowed for large-scale creation and reproduction from the end of the 18th  century.

Free horse racing by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

The beginnings

Géricault failed to win the Prix de Rome in 1816, a competition held by the Académie des Beaux-Arts that allowed young artists to go to Italy for training, so instead he went there at his own expense.

We know this thanks to this illustration of the Race of the Berbers, an ancient tradition of Roman carnivals.

He attended it during his stay and devoted many drawings to this event.

Boxers (1818) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

A sport of English origin, boxing was only introduced and accepted in France when Géricault made this lithograph.

The black boxer is represented as equal to his white opponent. This image represents a republican political statement from its artist, who was against slavery.

Shipwreck of the Meduse by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault's masterpiece, was exhibited in England in 1820. 

This lithographed reproduction was distributed amongst visitors, along with a booklet describing the sinking of the frigate La Méduse, which killed around 135 people in 1816. 

There are some differences from the final painting, including a change of perspective in the lower section of the boat.

Mameluk of the Imperial Guard defending a bugler against a Cossack. (1818) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

The Napoleonic period

Belonging to Bonapartist circles, Géricault rehabilitated the Mamluks through this image. 

These Egyptian cavalrymen of the Imperial Guard, who had served under Napoleon, were subject to racism and violence under the Restoration regime (1814-1830). 

The return from Russia (1818) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

In this piece, Géricault represents the glory of the Napoleonic saga (the military conquests of Napoleon), while conversely emphasizing the miseries of war.

Here, we can see the Empire's troops during the retreat in Russia, which proved to be a very deadly event.

The dead horse by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

This lithograph also uses the retreat from Russia and the misfortunes of war as its subjects, focusing on the carcass of a horse.

The crows circling in the snow-laden sky create a heavy and disturbing atmosphere, typical of Géricault's romanticism.

Passage of Mount St Bernard (1822) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

This is an illustration for a publication entitled The political and military life of Napoléon. In this positive representation of Napoleon's military campaign in Italy, we see the emperor standing on a snowy slope with one hand tucked into his waistcoat.

Napoleon thanks the monks for bringing bread to the soldiers.

Pity the sorrows of a poor old Man, Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door (1821) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly


During his stays in London in 1820-1821, Géricault denounced the social reality of the early industrial revolution in his lithographs.

In this print, the artist shows the consequences of the rural exodus through the figure of a beggar in the doorway of a bakery.

A Paraleytic Woman (1821) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

This print depicting a sick woman may be interpreted in several ways.  

It could be a simple rendering of disease and death, but may also represent the then-incurable disease syphilis, which ravaged society.

Some have interpreted the carriage in the background as an announcement of her death, while others see it as a symbol of society's indifference.

The English Farrier (1821) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

During his stay in England, Géricault produced picturesque images, such as these two farriers tending to three horses, one of which is wearing a checkered blanket and is trying to bite his companion.

A good rider and a connoisseur of equestrian anatomy, Géricault shows great sensitivity in his depictions of this animal.

Lion devouring a horse by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

Animal representations

It was also in England that Géricault discovered the animal painters of the Romantic period, such as George Stubbs (1724–1806).

Interested in the theme of the lion attacking the horse, he drew it twice, the first time here, using quill and ink.

Study of the head and feet of a boar (1811-1824) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

During his career, Géricault had a passion for depicting animals, such as the horse, as well as the boar.

As he was a good rider, we can be fairly sure that he participated in boar hunts.

Mazeppa (1823) by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly


This lithograph, created with Eugène Lami (1800–1890), is based on the poem Mazeppa (1818) by Lord Byron, which recounts the story of a Ukrainian nobleman that was tied naked to his horse as punishment for courting a married woman.

This torture evokes the sufferings of the misunderstood genius, a romantic theme par excellence.

The Giaour by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly


This other collaboration with Eugène Lami illustrates the Oriental Romances by Byron (1813), more precisely the rivalry between the Giaour, a Christian from Venice, and Hassan, a Muslim, fighting for the favors of the beautiful Greek woman Leïla. 

This allegory of the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) represents the Orientalist movement, defined by European artists' curiosity for the Maghreb and Middle Eastern countries in the 19th century.

I dream of her to the sound of waves by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

This print by Géricault complies with orientalist and romantic codes, as it depicts a man in oriental dress, with a melancholic atmosphere, facing a turbulent sea. 

We can therefore see an idealization of nature and foreign cultures, but above all, the artist's concern for the expression of feelings, which is typical of the romantic ideal.

The Giaour by Théodore GéricaultChâteau de Chantilly

Théodore Géricault, a great lover of horses, was fascinated by many romantic and orientalist themes. His work reflects the political and artistic movements found in Europe in the early 19th century.

By collecting his prints, the Duke of Aumale, the son of King Louis-Philippe and a great scholar of his time, recognized the talent of this artistic genius, despite his anti-monarchy stance.

Credits: Story

A virtual exhibition from the exhibition "Géricault in the Condé Museum in Chantilly" organized at Domaine de Chantilly, from July 15 to October 14, 2018. Curator: Nicole Garnier-Pelle, Heritage Curator in charge of the Condé Museum.

The texts are inspired by those in the exhibition catalog Géricault in the Condé Museum in Chantilly, by Nicole Garnier-Pelle, co-published by Editions Faton and Domaine de Chantilly, 2018.

Virtual exhibition designed by Clara Voiry.

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly

For all orders, please contactwww.photo.rmn.fr

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps