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Caravaggios Medusenschild von 1597 – ein Gorgoneion?

Constanze Hager

Published online:

01 Apr 2016



Caravaggio’s emblematic Medusa is mostly regarded as a representation of the mirrored decapitation of the Gorgon and thus as a reflection on Perseus’ protective shield. This essay proposes a new interpretation: Caravaggio’s Medusa is an adaptation of the antique Gorgoneion. The Gorgoneion historically depicted Medusa’s head with its petrifying gaze, which was placed on the shield of Athena. Due to its symbolic and protective power, the Gorgoneion became a frequent subject in art and handicraft well into Baroque art. Caravaggio’s contemporaries – including the poets Gaspare Murtola and Giambattista Marino – left witness that they interpreted the image as a Gorgoneion. In addition, the image itself contains elements that buttress this interpretation, including, inter alia, the green surface of the shield and the shadow. Both the historic accounts and the painted details therefore render an interpretation of the painting as Gorgoneion very likely.

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