Horace Vernet (French, 1789–1863)
Oil on canvas
18 5/8 x 15 1/8 in. (47.3 x 38.4 cm)
Purchase, Gift of Joanne Toor Cummings, by exchange, 1998 (1998.84)
In the early 1820s, Parisian critics were hard pressed to decide which young painter had greater promise, Horace Vernet or Théodore Gericault. This work is the homage of one close friend and friendly rival to the other. It shows Gericault as a Romantic artist, a type that had only recently been developed in the wake of Lord Byron's fusion of life and art. It is the portrait that recorded Gericault's appearance for future generations. Vernet depicts Gericault deep in thought and possibly suffering physically as well. It was probably painted in 1822 or early 1823, 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.