Lo Store ufficiale del Polo Museale Fiorentino | Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della citta' di Firenze

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Museum - Medusa

Donated to Grand Duke Ferdinand by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte in 1598 and exhibited at the Armeria Nuova della Galleria without attribution, The Medusa is registered as the work of Caravaggio in the inventory of 1631, where it is listed as an accompaniment to Persian armor worn by a mannequin on a wooden horse.
It is painted in oil on canvas and affixed to a wooden shield. The subject is mythological (Athena’s shield, which utilized the power of the Gorgon to turn subjects to stone), very dear to the iconography of the Medici’s military power.
The painter is not inspired by ancient statuary: Medusa’s face and mane of snakes, contorted in horror at the bloody separation from the body, are captured in the instant of transition between life and death.