Medusa in art
Medusa has always fascinated me. She’s one of the famous gorgons of Greek mythology, the only mortal of the three sisters. In early Greek sources she’s 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 is her long, silky hair, and is wanted by all suitors. She makes the big mistake of comparing herself to the goddess Athena, that makes the goddess very angry. The sea-god Poseidon lusts after her so bad, he rapes her in Athena’s temple. That’s the last straw for Athena, who turnes her into a creature with snake hair and piercing eyes that turn mortals into stone, if they look into her eyes. In this version she’s 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 is decapitated by Perseus, while sleeping. The clever hero uses his shield as a mirror to spot her and kill her. The blood squirting from her neck has magical powers, and it gives birth to the winged horse Pegasus. Perseus uses the head in many battles, before returning it to Athena, who puts 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:
And, finally, the one by Arnold Böcklin:
There’s also a sculpture of her by Dali (unfortunately I couldn’t find a good pic of that).
Which one is your favourite?