From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In Greek mythology Medusa ("guardian, protectress") was a Gorgon, a chthonic female monster, and a daughter of Phorcys and Ceto; Only Hyginus, (Fabulae, 151) interposes a generation and gives another chthonic pair as parents of Medusa; gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on his shield. In classical antiquity the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.
Medusa in art
From ancient times, the Medusa was immortalized in numerous works of art, including:
- Medusa on the breastplate of Alexander the Great, as depicted in the Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii's House of the Faun (c. 200 BC)
- The "Rondanini Medusa", a Roman copy of the Gorgoneion on the aegis of Athena
- Medusa (oil on canvas) by Leonardo da Vinci
- Perseus with the Head of Medusa (bronze sculpture) by Benvenuto Cellini (1554)
- Medusa (oil on canvas) by Caravaggio (1597).
- Tête de Méduse, by Peter Paul Rubens (1618)
- Perseus Turning Phineus and his Followers to Stone (oil on canvas) by Luca Giordano (early 1680s).
- Perseus with the Head of Medusa (marble sculpture) by Antonio Canova (1801)
- Medusa (oil on canvas) by Arnold Böcklin (c. 1878)
- Perseus (bronze sculpture) by Salvador Dalí
Medusa remained a common theme in art in the nineteenth century, when her myth was retold in Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology. Edward Burne-Jones' Perseus Cycle of paintings and a drawing by Aubrey Beardsley gave way to the twentieth century works of Paul Klee, John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture The Gates of Hell.