Perseus with the Head of Medusa

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Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Benevenuto Cellini, 1545

When I was younger, I was fascinated with the allure of Medusa, not Greek mythology, just Medusa. To be completely honest, there was a point in my life where all I read on the internet was the lore of Medusa and Perseus. When I learned the biggest ego of his time, Benevenuto Cellini, created a sculpture of my once guilty pleasure, I knew it was love. Headless, gory love.

In Greek mythology, according to the story of "Argonautica," Medusa was one of three sisters known as “The Gorgons.” While her sisters were blessed with godlike powers, Medusa was blessed with unworldly beauty. Men from everywhere would come for her, including Poseidon, who had a torrid affair with her. However, upon learning of her promiscuity, he cursed her, making sure anybody who looked upon her beauty ever again would see their last, turning to stone. To avoid harming civilians and to refrain from curious people who wished to look upon at medusa’s beauty, her sisters moved with her to a dark world, known as the lair of the gorgons, where medusa would never see another soul again.

Medusa seems nice, she moved away from her castle to not hurt anyone. Now why would anybody want her dead? Well, Perseus, born to Danae (a mortal) and Zeus (the promiscuous god himself), had to defend his mother’s honor. In doing so, a king who wished to be her suitor challenged Perseus to go and kill Medusa. For some reason Perseus accepts and the gods help him. Athena gives him the cap of invisibility to sneak past the gorgon sisters (guarding Medusa) and Hermes gave him the winged sandals to fly into the Gorgon’s lair. Perseus goes in with a sword and a mirror, and chops Medusa’s head off… Again… why did he do this? Doesn’t matter. She’s dead now.

Cellini is a master. He made the sculpture out of a single cast of bronze. The blood of Medusa’s head oozes down Perseus’s legs as he stands on the decapitated body of the Gorgon. Spewing from Medusa’s blood, according to mythology, are her unborn kids with Poseidon. Cellini even made the sculpture in this way so that he could “turn the spectators and critics in the Piazza della Signoria” into stone. I agree Sir Grand Master Cellini, who needs a sour critic anyway. Why not make them afraid? Afraid of the true beauty of the sculpture, and the true beauty of the Gorgon, Medusa.

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