Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Mortal Gorgon Loses Her Head in Florence
One of Florence's greatest statues is outdoors for all to enjoy day or night. Located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza Signoria Cellini's Perseus and Medusa is one of the world's masterpieces.
Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae. As most Greek myths go Perseus mortal grandfather was told by a prophecy that he would be killed by his grandson. Perseus was exposed to the sea only to be found by a fisherman.
Years go by and Perseus is now a man. He attends a banquet and at the banquet he is fooled into promising to do anything that is asked of him by the King. The King asks him to fetch the head of Medusa. Medusa was one of the three Gorgons and the only mortal one of the three.
To begin his quest he is aided by Athena and Hermes. Perseus heads to Libya to seek 0ut the Graiae. When he finds them he steals their shared eye and tooth. In turn they tell him where and how to find Medusa. He also receives a pair of winged sandals, a magical bag, a magical helmut, and a shied from them. Hermes throws in a sickle-shaped sword too.
Off he goes to find and kill Medusa in her lair. If he gazes at her he'll be turned to stone. Perseus finds her sleeping and sees her through the reflection in his shield. His blow is guided by Athena. He places Medusa's head in his magical bag and flies away wearing his winged sandals.
Athena takes the head of Medusa and places it on her shield. It is now called an Aegis and is meant to frighten enemies during battle.
Cellini did his Medusa in bronze. It nearly killed him and burned down his studio. More on Cellini and the process later. Caravaggio created a painted shield with the head of Medusa now located in the Uffizi. Bernini created a masterful sculpture of her head in stone located in Rome at the Capitoline Museum.