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Work The Woman with Gambling Mania

Department of Paintings: French painting

The Woman with Gambling Mania

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Pomarède Vincent

Together with a second portrait of a woman (Musée de Lyon) and three others of men (Ghent, Winterthur, and Springfield), this image of a monomaniac most likely dates from around 1820.

Mental illness

One feature of Romanticism was its exploration of reason and madness. Like the doctors of the time, the Romantics believed that the effects of mental illness could be read in the face of the sufferer. In the series to which this painting belongs, Géricault painted people who have crossed the sanity threshold into extreme situations. He was himself in a state of depression after finishing The Raft of the Medusa and it was perhaps at the suggestion of Dr. Georget, in charge of the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, that he painted portraits of mental patients as testimony to his own artistic striving for utter realism. Free of all attempt at narrative or symbol, this work is characterized by technical assurance, spontaneous brushwork, a harmonious blending of greens and browns, and the framing in white of the stricken, imploring face. One can only admire the sober power of this portrait of a woman who has lost her reason.

Society and madness

Géricault painted a series of portraits of monomaniacs, people whose mental disturbance focuses on a specific aspect of life while leaving them normal in other respects. In these individualized, acutely insightful works. the painter encapsulates specific forms of mania: compulsive kidnapping of children (Springfield Museum of Art), delusions of military grandeur (Winterthur, Oskar Reinhart Collection), kleptomania (Ghent, Musée des Beaux-Arts, and Musée de Lyon), and gambling (Louvre). In addition to their artistic value, these paintings are remarkable testimony to the relationship between society and psychiatry in the 19th century.

A doctor's collection in Baden-Baden

This picture was acquired by the Friends of the Louvre and donated to the museum in 1938. Discovered by chance in the collection of a doctor in Baden-Baden, the portrait - together with the four others found at the same time - belonged to the painters Henri Harpignies and Charles Jacque, before its acquisition by the Louvre. However it had been separated from its companion pieces, which were sold individually at different times.

Technical description

  • Théodore Géricault

    The Woman with Gambling Mania

    1819-1824?

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 77 cm; W. 64 cm

  • Gift of the Friends of the Louvre, 1938

    R.F. 1938-51

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    Géricault
    Room 61

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