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:
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?