The Méduse was a 40-gun Pallas-class frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1810. She took part in the Napoleonic wars, namely in the late stages of the Mauritius campaign of 1809–1811 and in raids in the Caribbean.
After the Bourbon Restoration, she was armed en flûte to ferry French officials to Saint-Louis, in Senegal, for the handover of the colony. Through inept navigation of her captain, an émigré given command for political reasons but incompetent as a naval officer, Méduse struck the Bank of Arguin and became a total loss. In the immediate aftermath of the wreckage, passengers and crew attempted to evacuate the ship on an improvised raft and became helpless when the frigate's launches gave up towing them. Only a handful of the shipwrecked survived the ordeal.
The scenes on the raft instilled considerable public emotion, making Méduse one of the most infamous shipwrecks of the Age of Sail. It was definitively immortalized when Théodore Géricault painted his Raft of the Medusa, which became an icon of French Romanticism.
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—Georges, French novelist, critic. LAbbé C, pt. 2, ch. 17 (1950)