Dec 24, 2010

Aesthetic Thursdays: Medusa

If the canvas is Perseus's shield, then this is Medusa's last stare.
Caravaggio, Medusa, 1597, Oil on canvas mounted on wood
Perseus, a son of Zeus, an epic hero of Greek myth, was locked in a chest as a boy by his grandfather with his mother inside and thrown to sea, because an oracle foretold he would kill the king Of Argos; he was saved by a fisherman and raised to manhood. His most famous deed: he sought to behead the Gorgon Medusa, partly from a wager with Polydectes the King of Seriphos, his mother's husband, and partly out of despair, for he knew Polydectes wanted to get rid of him. Perseus traveled to the edge of the world to find the Gorgon, one of three Gorgons, who were sisters, Medusa was the only one mortal. The Graeae, nymph sisters, helped him, as well as several gods and goddesses. To kill the Gorgon, Perseus had to avoid eye contact with her lest he turn to stone by looking her directly in the eye. So armed with a shield, bequeathed to him by Athena, and a scimitar, from Hermes, and a cape of invisibility, and winged sandals, he was able to peer on the Gorgon indiscreetly in her lair without looking at her directly, and slew her with his blade. When Perseus slew the Gorgon she was pregnant, and out of her belly flew Pegasus, the winged horse.


NB: If you want to check out the real shield, haunt the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy.
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image credit: New Crafts, Co.

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