Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Statuette - Head of Medusa
  • Head of Medusa
    Cellini, Benvenuto, born 1500 - died 1571
  • Enlarge image

Head of Medusa

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1545-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cellini, Benvenuto, born 1500 - died 1571 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze

  • Museum number:

    A.14-1964

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 14

This rare sketch model was made in preparation for the monumental group of Perseus in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. It shows the severed head of Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon who turned viewers to stone, held by the hand of the victorious Perseus. The casting of the final group, described by Cellini in his autobiography, was an astonishing technical achievement.
This expressive head was acquired by John Pope-Hennessy, who recognised its significance as one of the few surviving models by Benvenuto Cellini, the most celebrated of Italian Renaissance sculptor-goldsmiths.

Physical description

Bronze statuette, decapitated head of Medusa with a hand holding the head by the hair.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1545-1550 (made)

Artist/maker

Cellini, Benvenuto, born 1500 - died 1571 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Bronze

Dimensions

Height: 13.8 cm, Width: 9.5 cm, Depth: 14.5 cm, Weight: 1.88 kg

Object history note

Bought from Mrs. R. Byford, Brighton, for £1750, in 1964.

Historical significance: This expressive head was acquired by John Pope-Hennessy, who recognised its significance as one of the few surviving models by Benvenuto Cellini, the most celebrated of Italian Renaissance sculptor-goldsmiths. In Greek myth, the Gorgons Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa (the only mortal of the three) were hideous sisters, winged and snake-haired, who turned all who looked at them to stone. Cellini's famed monumental statue of Perseus shows the hero holding the head of Medusa, with hair of writhing snakes, after he had beheaded the Gorgon with the aid of a reflection in the polished bronze surface of his shield (the gift of the goddess Athena) so as to avoid her deadly gaze.

Descriptive line

Statuette, bronze, Head of Medusa, by Benvenuto Cellini, Italy, ca.1545-50

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Pope-Hennessy, John. "A Sketch-model by Benvenuto Cellini", Essays on Italian Sculpture, London, 1968, pp. 141-44
Pope-Hennessy, John. Cellini, London, 1985, p. 184
Mariacher, Giovanni. Storia dell' Arte in Italia, La Scultura del Cinquecento, Turin, 1987, p. 187
Cole, M. W., Cellini and the Principles of Sculpture, Cambridge, 2002, pp. 72-73 and figs. 32 & 33
Wittkower, R. Sculpture. Process and Principles . London, 1977, p. 165 and p. 165, fig 13
Ceppi, Claudia Beltramo, and Nicoletta Confuorto, Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell'Europa del Cinquecento, Milan: Electra, 1980.

Materials

Bronze

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Hand

Categories

Sculpture; Myths & Legends; Bronze

Collection

Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.