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Medusa
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Arty Fact

jtucker's picture

Contributor

Medusa may be one of the most misunderstood homegirls around.

Most people think of Medusa as that horrendous heartless wench with serpentine hair and bulbous eyes that will turn all to stone. Harsh. Turns out, there is another side to this story that most people overlook and I am about to try to convince you that Medusa is not a monster, but dare I say it...a martyr. Okay, she definitely is a monster, but things are not always so black and white, especially when you are messing around with the world of Greek mythology. Those stories are far too ridonculous for logic.

Once up a time, Medusa was bangin. Not that I am trying to objectify women or anything, but it is important to know that Medusa used to be smokin hot - a fair maiden adorned with luscious golden locks and a gentle disposition. She also dedicated her life to celibacy, which makes what I am about to tell you that much more depressing. Poseidon, the god of the sea, one day happened upon Medusa and decided that he must have her. Apparently he did not get the memo that no means no and decided to rape her, and in the goddess Athena’s shrine nonetheless! Just so many levels of wrong. Well, it didn’t take long for Athena to learn of the funny business that went down in her holy spot and somehow felt it reasonable to punish Medusa for getting raped there. Thus the hideous monster that we know today was born. Athena destroyed her innocence and beauty and left you with the evil gorgon Medusa. Apparently villainizing the victim goes as far back as 8 CE (the date of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the book that gives the first full account of this story). Turns out rape culture is far more embedded in humanity than many may realize. We have a long way to go friends…As we know, things never turned around for poor Medusa, and she ended up decapitated at the hands of Perseus.   

Given that this story is both downtrodden and gory, it comes as no surprise that Caravaggio decided to paint it. Caravaggio really had a thing for painting extraordinarily aggressive images in a stunning yet bleak manner, which pretty much fits the ticket of his personality. Accused of murder, drunken debauchery, and an inexplicable obsession with painting scantily dressed little boys, Caravaggio was one destructive force of artistic genius.

Caravaggio painted two versions of Medusa and the Grand Duke of Tuscany commissioned this one as a gift for the Medici family. The family had an affinity towards this image for they felt it reflected their military power. You also may have realized that this painting is circular, an oddity for a work made in the 16th century. The shape is a reference to the shield Perseus used to take down the dreaded Medusa, and was also a gift from none other than Athena who can apparently hold a grudge like no other. Another thing you may have noticed is that Medusa is looking exceptionally butch in this version. That is due the fact that Caravaggio used a young male for his model (told you he had a questionable infatuation with little boys). So I guess if there is any take away from this painting it would be: Don’t piss off Greek gods or Caravaggio; it's never going to end well for you.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Medusa (Caravaggio)

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio created two versions of Medusa - one in 1596 and the other in 1597, depicting the exact moment she was executed by Perseus. He plays with the concept by replacing Medusa's face with his own, as an indication of his immunity to her dreadful gaze. Due to its bizarre and intricate design, the painting is said to complement Caravaggio's unique fascination with violence and realism. It was commissioned by Italian diplomat Francesco Maria del Monte as a means of gifting it to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and is now located in the Uffizi Museum in Florence without signature.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Medusa (Caravaggio).

Comments (1)

pogo agogo

What's that meme going around? Athena blessed Medusa with the ability to protect herself and men beheaded her for it.