This painting in Hannibal’s waiting room is The Raft of the Medusa by the French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault.
The Raft of the Medusa, an oil painting completed when the artist was 27, the work has become an icon of French Romanticism. It depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today’s Mauritania on July 5, 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation and dehydration and PRACTICED CANNIBALISM.
The event fascinated the young artist, and before he began work on the final painting, he undertook extensive research and produced many preparatory sketches. He interviewed two of the survivors, and constructed a detailed scale model of the raft. His efforts took him to morgues and hospitals where he could view, first-hand, the colour and texture of the flesh of the dying and dead. As the artist had anticipated, the painting proved highly controversial at its first appearance in the 1819 Paris Salon, attracting passionate praise and condemnation in equal measure. However, it established his international reputation, and today is widely seen as seminal in the early history of the Romantic movement in French painting.
The painting was acquired by the Louvre soon after the artist’s early death at the age of 32
The painting is also mentioned in The Silence of the Lambs while Hannibal is being questioned by Senator Martin:
“Give me an age and a physical description, anything else you can remember,” Major Bachman said.
Dr. Lecter simply went away. He thought about something else— Géricault’s anatomical studies for The Raft of the Medusa-–and if he heard the questions that followed, he didn’t show it.
When Senator Martin regained his attention, they were alone in the room.
It’s both the reference to the books and displaying another of Hannibal’s private jokes - publicly displaying his fascination with cannibalism.
Sending love and puppies to xshiromorix for identifying the painting! :-)
All descriptions of paintings in Hannibal are here.