Caravaggio - Medusa 1597

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Caravaggio - Medusa 1597

Medusa 1597
55x60cm oil on canvas mounted on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
The image is only being used for informational and educational purposes

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This severed head is that of Medusa, the gorgon who had hair of living snakes. Such was her repulsiveness that anyone who looked at her was turned to stone. The hero Perseus used a shining shield from the goddess Athena to avoid looking at Medusa directly, then decapitated her.
Caravaggio was commissioned to make this monstrosity as a gift for the Grand Duke of Tuscany; conceived to enter the Medici collection in Florence, it would enable Caravaggio to compete with Leonardo da Vinci, by this time dead for 80 years. This painting decorates a convex wooden shield, surely alluding to a story about the young Leonardo, whose father once asked him to decorate a shield. Leonardo went into the fields, collected snakes, lizards and insects, and assembled them into a hybrid monster which he painted on the shield.