In the early 1820s, Parisian critics were hard pressed to decide which young painter held greater promise, Vernet or his close friend—and friendly rival—Gericault. This work shows Gericault as a Romantic artist, a type that had recently come into being based on Lord Byron's example. He is depicted deep in thought and possibly suffering physically as well. It was probably painted when Gericault was stricken with the disease that claimed his life in 1824. In a lithograph made by Vernet in 1823, Gericault wears the same scarf on his head.
M. Picon, Paris (in 1898; see Notes); Colonel Saint-Maurice, Senlis (in 1932); sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 30, 1955, no. 177, as "Portrait d'homme," to Dubaut; Pierre Dubaut, Paris (from 1955); by descent to his daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Dubaut-Bellonte, Paris (until 1997; sold to Bréton); [Étienne Bréton, Paris, 1997; sold to Brady]; [W. M. Brady & Co., New York, 1997–98]
Paris. École des Beaux-Arts. "Les Vernet," May 1898, no. 296 (as "Portrait de Géricault en costume d'atelier," lent by M. Picon).
Paris. Atelier Eugène Delacroix. "Eugène Delacroix et ses amis," June–July 1932, no. 144 (as "Géricault," lent by M. le colonel de Saint-Maurice).
Paris. Galerie Claude Aubry. "Géricault dans les collections privées françaises," November 6–December 7, 1964, not listed [see Bazin 1987].
Accademia di Francia a Roma. "Horace Vernet (1789–1863)," March–June 1980, not in catalogue [see Bazin 1987].
Paris. École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. "Horace Vernet (1789–1863)," June–July 11, 1980, not in catalogue [see Bazin 1987].
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Géricault," October 10, 1991–January 6, 1992, no. 144 (as "Portrait de Géricault," lent by a private collection, Paris).
New York. W. M. Brady & Co., Inc. "Drawings and Pictures, 1770–1915," November 12–26, 1997; January 6–23, 1998, no. 14 (as "Portrait of Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault").
London. Tate Britain. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," February 5–May 11, 2003, no. 16 (as "Portrait of Théodore Géricault").
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," June 8–September 7, 2003, no. 16.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," October 7, 2003–January 4, 2004, no. 16.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 75).
Charles Clément. Géricault: étude biographique et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître. 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1867). Paris, 1868, p. 422, describes the picture and mentions the reproductive lithograph by Vienot.
Charles Clément. Géricault, étude biographique et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre du maitre. 3rd ed. (1st ed. 1867). Paris, 1879, p. 422.
Robert Rosenblum inHorace Vernet (1789–1863). Exh. cat., Accademia di Francia a Roma. Rome, 1980, p. 15.
Germain Bazin. Théodore Géricault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné. Vol. 1, L'Homme: Biographie, témoignages et documents. Paris, 1987, pp. 219–21, fig. 163, states that this picture was shown in Exh. Paris 1980, though not included in the catalogue; calls it an evidently posthumous portrait; discusses numerous related works: a drawing by Vienot after this painting, a lithograph by F. Noël after Vionet's drawing, an engraving by G. Gorvel after Noël's lithograph, a drawing (British Museum, London) and a lithograph by Alexandre Colin after this painting, and an anonymous painting (private collection) probably after Colin's lithograph.
Germain Bazin. Théodore Géricault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné. Vol. 2, L'Œuvre: Période de formation. Paris, 1987, p. 331, under no. 17, states that this picture inspired an anonymous watercolor portrait (location unknown).
Bruno Chenique inGericault. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1991, p. 367, no. 144, colorpl. 385, calls it "Portrait de Géricault" and dates it 1827(?).
Bruno Chenique. "Géricault posthume." Géricault. Ed. Régis Michel. Vol. 2, Paris, 1996, pp. 940–41, 947, 951, 953, 955 n. 4, fig. 395, tentatively dates it 1825.
Mark Brady. Drawings and Pictures, 1770–1915. Exh. cat., W. M. Brady & Co., Inc. New York, 1997, unpaginated, no. 14, ill. (color), dates it about 1823, based on an 1823 lithograph by Vernet of Gericault wearing the same headscarf [see Ref. Chenique 1996, fig. 396]; asserts that the "startling immediacy" of this picture provides evidence that it was made during the last year of the artist's life, rather than posthumously.
Gary Tinterow. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1997–1998." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 56 (Fall 1998), p. 41, ill., dates it probably 1822 or early 1823; calls it "the portrait that recorded Gericault's appearance for future generations".
Patrick Noon in Patrick Noon. Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2003, p. 74, no. 16, ill. (color), calls it "Portrait of Théodore Géricault"; dates it about 1822–23 in the caption and February 1823 in the text, stating that it was probably painted from life.
Asher Ethan Miller inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 327, colorpl. 75, states that the broadly painted background and unfinished lower section are indications of the spontaneity with which it was produced and that it is now thought to have been rendered from life; notes that the existence of Vernet's 1823 full-length lithograph of the dying Gericault in the same scarf may indicate that The Met's picture is a study for a larger composition.
Chenique (1991) was the first scholar to identify the Metropolitan's painting as the one lent by M. Picon to Paris 1898 (see Provenance and Exhibitions). No information about Picon is known. His connection to this work is intriguing, however, in the light of its next known owner, Colonel Saint-Maurice, the lender to Paris 1932. He appears to have been Marie-Georges Pelée de Saint-Maurice (1876–1950), who in 1905 married Marie-Anne-Andrée-Louise Delaroche (1873–1960), the great-granddaughter of Horace Vernet. It is thus possible that Picon was also related to Vernet, and that the painting descended directly through the artist's family until it was sold at auction in 1955.
There are several works related to the Metropolitan's painting: a drawing by Vienot after this painting; a lithograph by F. Noël, dated March 15, 1825, after Vienot's drawing; an oil copy by Alexandre Colin (Christie's, Paris, March 23, 2005, no. 394); a drawing (British Museum, London) and a lithograph also by Colin after this painting; an anonymous oil copy (private collection) after Colin's lithograph; and an engraving by G. Gorvel (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) after Noël's lithograph. An anonymous watercolor bust portrait within an oval frame (location uknown) shows Gericault wearing a similar black cape and scarf on his head (see Bazin 1987). Vernet also made a lithograph of a standing Gericault wearing the same head scarf (1823; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; see Chenique 1996).