PROJECT: N 2021-1-BE02-KA220-ADU-000035111

4 Elements in Arts

Lesson Plans

The Raft of the Medusa
Le Radeau de La Méduse

Warming Up

  1. Can you write down 3 words that come to your mind when you look at this painting?
  2. How do you think the people in the painting feel?
  3. What would you do in a situation like this?


Cultural Heritage Background

The Romantic movement, born from freedom of thought and expression, appeared after the French Revolution in the first half of the 19th century, along with Neo-classicism and Realism.

Romantic art describes emotion and fantasy rather than reason and morality. The painters of the Romantic movement expressed their ideas, personal impressions and feelings with passion in their works.

The subjects treated by these painters were linked to their travels, as well as the events and difficulties of their time. Their landscapes no longer seek to reflect reality, but rather to represent mental states, sometimes creating strange and gloomy moods.

The properties of Romantic painting are the following:

– Lines, shapes and shadows that stress movement.

– Colours that communicate passion and ideas.

– Contrasts of light and darkness stress the sometimes scary atmosphere.

Theodore Géricault (1791–1824) is, along with Eugène Delacroix, one of the two great figures of French Romanticism. In this work he takes the tragic shipwreck of a French boat to say something about the carelessness of Louis XVIII’s government.


Do you know what homophones are?

Homophones are two words which sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. To use the right word, the key is to understand the context.

Listen to the pronunciations of these word

Sea (a large mass of salty water) – See (to perceive with the eyes)

Whether (If) Weather (atmospheric conditions)

Reading the story

This large painting (491 cm high and 716 cm wide) represents a tragic episode in the history of the French colonial fleet: the sinking of the ship Méduse.

In June 1816, the ship “La Méduse”, with three other French ships, left France for the port of Saint-Louis in Senegal. Senegal was a gift to the French by the British as a sign of goodwill towards the restored King Louis XVIII.

The ship transported 400 people: civil servants, military personnel and administrators. The ship’s captain was Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, who had not been on a ship for 25 years and had never commanded a ship in his life, but who was friends with the “right” people.

His mistakes caused the ship to sink in a short time. Officials and soldiers, including the captain, got into lifeboats but there was not enough room for everyone and 150 people were forced to get on a raft. What happen after was a two-week nightmare of rough seas, brutal murders, madness and cannibalism. Of the 150 people on the raft, only fifteen survived, and five of them died shortly after their rescue. The shipwreck became an international scandal, because a French captain in the service of the newly restored monarchy was responsible for the disaster due to his incompetence.

Theodore Géricault, then 27 years old, painted this picture two years after the trial of Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys. The painter had studied the subject in depth and read a review written by two survivors. He visited hospitals and morgues to study the dying and the dead, and then set up a replica raft on the sea to watch it roll over the waves. Géricault even cut out body parts from the corpses in the local morgue and left them to decompose in his studio for reference.

With this painting, Géricault was criticising society and the incompetent government, and showing that artists can have a very powerful voice when they want to.

Reading Comprehension


You can replace a noun in a sentence with a gerund or an infinitive.

The gerund is formed from the verbal base + -ING 

An infinitive is: to + verb base form

Whether you use a gerund or infinitive depends on the main verb of the sentence.

A modal verb is used with a main verb to show ability, possibility, probability, permission and obligation.

Modal verbs Function
Allows you to express the ability to take an action
Allows you to express the possibility of carrying out an action
Allows you to express the probability that an event will occur
Allows you to express the probability that an event will occur
Allows you to express an obligation
Allows you to express a future action
Allows you to express a future action
Allows you to express the conditional

Additional activities

  • Learn more about the story behind this painting


  • Find out more about Romanticism:
  • “Romanticism Explained through Paintings”: Video
“The Romantics”: Video
  • Read more about modal verbs:


How true are these statements for you?
I think the story is engaging and interesting. *
I have learnt some new vocabulary and structures. *
I have learnt about its background and culture. *
The extra resources and additional activities have made me reflect on the meaning and the implications of the story. *
I have learnt about its cultural background and history. *
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