Gericault's 'Portraits of the Insane'

Whilst researching my residency, I came across Theordore Gericault's series of portraits of the insane. Following the success of Gericault's famous painting the Raft of the Medusa, he suffered a riding accident and developed a tumour on his spine. Whilst suffering with this he painted a series of portraits of patients of the Salpetriere asylum in Paris. 

'A madwoman and compulsive gambler'
Gericault was commissioned to paint the portraits by a doctor who wanted to study the possibility of diagnosing the mentally ill by studying their faces. Gericault was however struggling at the time with his own health: 'Now I am disoriented and confused. I try in vain to find support; nothing seems solid, everything escapes me, deceives me. Our earthly hopes and desires are only vain fancies, our successes mere mirages that we try to grasp,” ThĂ©odore GĂ©ricault wrote in a letter to his friend Dedreux-Dorcy in 1810.

'Portrait of a woman suffering from excessive envy'

The portraits are profoundly human in the suffering they portray, perhaps because Gericault was suffering himself and could identify with his sitters. It was important to me in my own portrait project to draw people as my fellow sufferers, my people, rather than an outsider looking in.

'Portrait of a Kleptomaniac' 
One thing that jar's Gericault's portrait series for me is the titles of the paintings, the people are not given names but lables, diagnosis. As part of my project I have asked my sitters to write a bit in their own words, titles will be their names, to show they have a voice.