Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, exhibited in the Salon of 1819, represents an attack on the picture genre in which the image of the hero is primarily conceptualized: the history painting. Gericault's painting offends all aesthetic categories that indispensably belong to history painting, categories that guarantee it its generalizing and universalizing connotations. Yet at the same time, the tremendous format and Gericault's stylistic treatment of the bodies depicted leave no doubt that this is a painting that would like to attain the dignity of history painting. Even if Gericault's new heroes arouse the sympathy of the viewer, they are in no way any use as new figures of identification. The antagonistically aesthetic structure of the picture does not allow for such an unequivocal reading. Gericault's heroicizing of that which is human intends to trigger certain emotions by way of art, emotions that would not have been attainable with the representation of a conventional hero. It is no longer the hero known by name, no longer even the single anonymous hero, but instead a conglomerate of heroic bodies which are meant to demonstrate heroic suffering and make it plausible. In fact, it is the picture as a whole that achieves this effect. For this reason, however, the aesthetic merit of the painting itself comes into view. From the start, the reception of the painting switched between the statement of superhuman size and energy as a depiction and the superhuman size and energy that were necessary to create this depiction. The magnificent gesture that Gericault makes with his enormous painting was intended to surpass the tradition of history painting. The chosen format, the composition, and the inflation of the scandalizing subject to great art refer directly to the artist and his absolute desire for fame and greatness. The creator of the picture, the artist himself, becomes visible behind the depiction as the actual hero.