A 7-foot tall statue of Medusa holding the severed head of Perseus will be installed in Manhattan, across from the NY County Criminal Court, the location of high profile abuse cases including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial.
i never knew this before but Medusa was stalked & raped by Poseidon and then blamed for it, and cursed by Athena with the snake hair & turning people to stone thing. She was banished and then Perseus killed & beheaded her. This statue “inverts the narrative” as a commentary on the Me Too movement. It will stand there until April.
While I like this sculpture and admire the concept of inverting the myth, I have to admit that the artist is up against some fierce competition for the theme.
The sculpture is clearly based upon Cellini's Mannerist sculpture:
Before Cellini there are at least two masterful paintings from the Venetian Renaissance on the Perseus/Andromeda theme:
And then the Dutch Mannerist, Joachim Wtewael. The last two paintings have long been favorites of mine... and you might notice a complete absence of the Medusa theme in these takes on Perseus and Andromeda:
Peter Paul Rubens clearly admired the Perseus and Andromeda theme, repeatedly turning to it in his paintings. Nevertheless, Rubens turned to different aspects of the narrative. In this first Andromeda, the damsel in distress looks up to the heavens like a penitent saint imploring the gods for her life... but with tears streaming down her face, she has little hope... not seeing Perseus rushing to her aid in the distance.
In this scene of Perseus and Andromeda, the great battle is over... the faithful knight has defeated the dragon and won the hand of the damsel in distress.
In this painting we see a similar scene. Perseus has dismounted after dispatching the monster who lies washed up on the rocks. He walks up to check on Andromeda who looks down demurely while the putti struggle to cover her nudity.
This last is my favorite by Rubens. He is clad like a Roman emperor and crown the victor by the goddesses. Andromeda may look away... but not without an awareness of her charms. The open jaws of the monster lays at their feet. Rubens was a classical scholar and certainly aware of the role of Medusa in the myth and so he places the Gorgon's head upon Perseus' shield.
In Frederic, Lord Leighton's version, the Kraken has already wrapped itself around the damsel in distress as Perseus descends before the sun... like the God Apollo.
The Perseus and Andromeda theme has remained popular well into the 20th century as can be seen in this version by Edward John Poynter. The Medusa aspect of the myth does not show up as often in Art... although there is a painting of her severed head by Rubens.