Caravaggio (1571 - 1610): Head of Medusa, 1598, Oil on

Caravaggio (1571 - 1610): Head of Medusa, 1598, Oil on

6/8/2021, 4:55:24 PM
Caravaggio (1571 - 1610): Head of Medusa, 1598, Oil on canvas mounted on wood, diameter 58 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence The "Head of Medusa" executed by Caravaggio, in 1598, was commissioned as a cerimonial shield by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the Medici family's agent in Rome. Medusa, in Greek mythology, is the most famous of the monster figures known as Gorgons. She was usually represented as a winged female creature having a head of hair consisting of snakes; unlike the Gorgons, she was sometimes represented as very beautiful. Medusa was the only Gorgon who was mortal; hence her slayer, Perseus, was able to kill her by cutting off her head. From the blood that spurted from her neck sprang Chrysaor and Pegasus, her two sons by Poseidon. The severed head, which had the power of turning into stone all who looked upon it, was given to Athena, who placed it in her shield; according to another account, Perseus buried it in the marketplace of Argos. (Britannica) Medusa in Caravaggio’s painting is portrayed at the moment of self-recognition. Realizing that her head and body were no longer one, and that she was still conscious, Caravaggio depicts the horror in her eyes. Medusa is a wonderful example of Caravaggio’s focus on physiognomic, or facial expression in his paintings. Medusa shows an intense level of realism, and Caravaggio uses dark and light contrasts so effectively that Medusa looks three-dimensional.

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