Medusa in art

Medusa has always fascinated me. She is one of the famous gorgons of Greek mythology, the only mortal of the three sisters.  In early Greek sources sheis depicted as a hideous monster, with live snakes for hair, a big tongue, tusks and an unbearable stare. Later, a different image emerged of her, that of a beautiful maiden, whose best asset was her long, silky hair, and was desired by many suitors. However she made the big mistake of comparing herself to the goddess Athena, that angered the goddess. The sea-god Poseidon found Medusa irresistable and raped her in Athena’s temple. That was the last straw for Athena, who turned  her into a terrible creature with snake hair and piercing eyes that turn mortals into stone if they looked into her eyes. In this version of the story she is represented more like an unfortunate victim, with beautiful but sad features, who in her foolishness brought Athena’s wrath upon herself. While pregnant with Poseidon’s child, she was decapitated by Perseus in her sleep. The clever hero used his shield as a mirror to spot her and kill her. The blood squirting from her neck had magical powers,  and gave birth to the winged horse Pegasus. Perseus used the head in many battles, before returning it to Athena, who put it on her shield Aegis. Ancient Greek soldiers painted Medusa’s head on their shields to fight off evil spirits. They also carved them in stone over their house entrances for the same reason.

Many great artists have been inspired by Medusa’s story. One of them was Leonardo da Vinci, however his work has been lost. My personal favourite is Caravaggio’s painting:


Another famous representation of Medusa is Cellini’s sculpture, in which he wanted to surpass artistically both Michelangelo and Leonardo.


Another one by Rubens:

medusrub1And, finally, the one by Arnold Böcklin:

601px-medusa1There’s also a sculpture of her by Dali (unfortunately I couldn’t find a good pic of that).

Which one is your favourite?

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~ by erikatakacs on January 17, 2008.

11 Responses to “Medusa in art”

  1. The Caravaggio and Cellini in that order are the favorites of mine. Both were violent megalomaniacs, even in their day. The subject matter would seem appropriate for them.

  2. Like the blog Erika, I will put you on my blogroll

  3. Thanks, PTB, and I will too.

  4. I don’t know, erika. Caravaggio’s is indeed ugly to look at–I suppose it’s based on a real decapitated head–that would be like him. The Cellini I can’t judge without thinking of Benvenuto. The Rubens doesn’t look like a Rubens–it must be a detail of some painting where a bigger figure gets the spotlight (Perseus? Andromeda?) And the Böcklin is sort of witchcrafty, as the subject requires–maybe that’s my choice.

  5. Swallows, that thought of Caravaggio’s head freaks me out. I actually like it, and I like the Böcklin one too. My ideal Medusa would be between the two interpretations. I think you’re right about Rubens. So, I guess you’re not crazy about any of them. I want to model her too one day. I already have one version of her hidden somewhere in the closet. She didn’t turn out right. But I hope to get her right one day…

  6. Awesome paintings. Really was amazed.

  7. // – Вот создал сео блог, можете посмотреть, оценить, предложите свои идеи…

  8. Камеры на взвод: я обозреватель эротических видеочатов. эротический видеочат
    Блоггер без страха и упрека. Мой блог рушит стереотипы и мочит моновзгляды.

  9. its just a thing that peploe say and its not true and she only had 7 snakes like people say and not 20 or 100 its all a lie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Мама и Ребенок – сервис для родителей. дошкольник

  11. She looks sad and sooo alone

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