- ‘Le moribond’
 
    
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Théodore Géricault (Rouen, 1791-1854, Paris)
‘Le moribond’
Patinated plaster

Maximum dimensions: 34,5 cm long, 11 cm high


Provenance:
- Paul Huet’s heirs
- With Galerie André Lemaine, Paris

Exhibited:
- Lyon, Musée des Beaux Arts, Géricault, La folie d’un monde, 2006, cat. n. 80

Comparative literature:
- A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth, ‘Géricault sculpteur. A propos de la découverte d’une statuette en plâtre d’un moribond’, in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art Français, 1973, pp. 319-331
- Ph. Grunchec, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Géricault, Paris, 1978, Cat. S9
- G. Bazin, Théodore Géricault, Etude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, Wildenstein Institute, Paris, 1992, vol. 5, p. 23, cat. 1456


A painter of outstanding originality, Géricault was also a draughtsman, lithographer and sculptor and is usually regarded as one of the founders of the French Romantic School. He was born in Rouen but came to Paris as a boy and after studying for two years with Carle Vernet entered the studio of the academic painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, where Delacroix also studied. At the same time he made copies of the old masters in the Louvre and developed a passion for the art of Rubens. From his youth Géricault was particularly interested in horses and racing, and he developed a brilliant and rapid execution capturing vividly the sense of movement. During the eleven years of his tempestuous career, Géricault displayed many interests, from his series of portraits of the insane, painted around 1822, to his still-lives of the severed heads and limbs of criminals in the morgue. He showed a predilection for exuberant compositions, a fascination with the macabre, and an interest in modern subject matter.

Only a handful of Géricault’s sculptures have survived. Several exist in multiple versions and in various materials, such as the Flayed Horse in the National Gallery of Art, Washington which can be found in wax and bronze. They range from classical mythological themes to modern subjects. Often their relationship to Gericault's two-dimensional oeuvre is unclear and the chronology of the sculpture is still debated. The works themselves are poorly documented and they seem to have never been publicly shown during the artist's lifetime. A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth published for the first time in 1973 a study on the small sculpture of the moribund, then Grunchec and Bazin also included the work in their publications (see lit.). G. Bazin (see lit, p. 24) quotes two letters by Henri Focillon, then director of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon, written in 1924. In these Focillon mentions a plaster of a moribund by Géricault then in a private collection in Lyon, which he offers to bring to Paris to show the Duc de Trévise, expert and collector of the artist.

One moribund made of solid plaster like the present one is in the Wallraf Richartz Museum, Koln and two others are in private collections (one, hollow and with a brown patina, was formerly in the collection of André Salomon, and the other displays a bronze-like patina). The plasters are very likely to have been realised after a wax model made by the artist in preparation for the Raft of the Medusa (1819, Musée du Louvre, Paris). Drawings by Géricault show similar men lying with their face on the ground (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen; Musée Bonnat, Bayonne; Jowell Collection, Toronto). The present plaster still retains a metal hook which indicates that the sculpture was probably displayed hung on a wall.

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