Javier S. Burgos, a distinguished researcher from the Predepartmental Unit of Medicine of the Universitat Jaume I of Castelló, has discovered the third portrait of the Les Monomanes series by the master of French Romanticism Théodore Géricault, which was still missing two hundred years after being painted. The scientist has published a letter in the correspondence section of the prestigious journal The Lancet Neurology, in which he explains how he found this portrait that, together with two other newly discovered works, allows advances to be made in the identification of the complete series.
The portrait depicts a patient with the monomania of political strife, a kind of mental illness according to the psychiatrists of that time. The painting known as Portrait of a Man, Called Vendeen is exhibited in the Louvre Museum. Nonetheless, up until now it has not been connected with Les Monomanes, a series of ten portraits of which only seven were known, the last two having been identified by this researcher.
Around 1823, the author of The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault, painted a famous series of ten portraits of mentally ill patients admitted to Parisian psychiatric hospitals, known as Les Monomanes. Up until 2021 only five of the ten portraits that make up this series had been located, all of them being exhibited in well-known museums. These portraits correspond to the “monomanias” of kleptomania, envy, gambling, obsessive fixation (delusions of military rank) and kidnapping. Dr Burgos’s determination and research added two new titles to the series, namely, Portrait of a man. Homo melancholicus and Monomania of drunkenness, along with a third new one.
The portraits, commissioned by the psychiatrist Étienne-Jean Georget from the painter Théodore Géricault in the early 19th century to immortalise the physiognomic expressions of ten of his patients, were acquired by two of Georget’s pupils (known only as Lachèze and Maréchal) upon his death and divided into two sets of five. Until last year, only the five portraits owned by Lachèze were known. Clinical descriptions of the medical conditions depicted in these paintings were made by the alienists of the time in their treatises.
The other five paintings remained hidden after they were painted in the 19th century, but they were already thought to have existed because of a letter published in 1863 by a famous art dealer who discovered them in an attic in Baden-Baden. In January 2021, in the same journal the researcher Javier S. Burgos revealed the whereabouts of the sixth portrait from Les Monomanes by Géricault: Portrait of a man. Homo melancholicus, which was found in a private collection in Italy.
One year later, the same researcher identified the seventh portrait called Monomania of drunkenness in a small art gallery in Versailles. Now, the researcher continues to investigate the last two missing portraits and reveals the existence of an eighth portrait of Les Monomanes that corresponds to the painting depicting political strife.
The Lancet is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. It was founded in 1823 and is published weekly by The Lancet Publishing Group. The Lancet Neurology is the journal of The Lancet specialised in neurology, and it has an impact factor of 59.935, which makes it number one in the world ranking of clinical neurology journals.
Javier S. Burgos Muñoz (Puerto de Sagunto, Valencia, 1971) is a graduate in Biology (specialised in Biochemistry) from the University of Valencia and he holds a doctorate (specialised in Molecular Biology) from the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has been a teacher and researcher at many universities and research centres. Furthermore, he has devoted a large part of his scientific career to research on Alzheimer’s disease and has held positions of responsibility and senior management in the biotechnology business, in biohealth research foundations and in public administration. Nowadays, he is a distinguished researcher in the Predepartmental Unit of Medicine of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universitat Jaume I of Castelló. In 2020, his first book entitled Geografía de la locura was published by West Indies Publishing Company and, in 2021, he published another book called Diseñando fármacos with the Next Door Publishers company.
For further information about Les Monomanes by Géricault, see the following publications by Javier S. Burgos:
“Monomania of drunkenness by Géricault”. The Lancet Neurology (2022). 21(9):774-775
“A new portrait by Géricault”. The Lancet Neurology (2021). 20(2):90-91
“La sexta monomanía”. Jot Down Magazine (2021)
“Los retratos perdidos de Géricault”. Jot Down Magazine (2017)