Friday, June 10, 2011

Perseus and the head of Medusa

Without wading too deep into greek mythology........ here is a bronze statue, by Cellini (ca. 1550) of Perseus who cut the head off Medusa. Perseus was given winged sandals from the god Hermes, a sword from Zeus, a invisible cloak from Hades, a mirrored shield (to be able to look at the Medusa) from Athena, and finally and most practically a bag from Hesperides for Medusa's head. Thus fully outfitted he went to cut the head off Medusa. A gross detail to the sculpture is the bloody stump of Medusa's head. What looks like the shredded muscle of the cut off neck is upon closer inspection, writhing snakes. This refers to the fact that two creatures (Pegasus and Chrysaor) sprang from Medusa's severed neck.

Another cool detail to the sculpture: when looking at the back of Perseus's helmeted head you can see the image of the sculptor's face! The banding of the helmet forms the nose and eyebrows of the face, and Perseus's hair becomes the sculptor's beard. This type of hidden image is somewhat typical for renaissance art, and in painting the most extreme example of this trickery can be seen in the "fruit face" paintings from Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

1 comment:

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