"This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affectations glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bernini's Medusa

Last Sunday, while I was at the Legion of Honour to visit *The Cult of Beauty* Exhibit, I was thrilled to learn that Bernini's *Medusa* was still on display.  *She* was scheduled to return to Rome a week before, but due to public demand, she stayed! (O wise SF people!)  This afforded me the opportunity to see this extraordinanry sculpture.

She is made from Carrara Marble....and is displayed on a stand of pink marble....  alas...I could not find a photo with her atop the stand......it is truly otherwordly!

Gian Lorenzo Bernini created her sometime around 1630.  According to the Greek myth, Medusa, a Gorgon with snakes for hair, turned anyone to stone who gazed on her. Although she has a beautiful face, she seems to realize her own fatality and in this climactic moment, reveals her own pain and anquish. Like many of Bernini's sculptures, this depicts the most dramatic and transitory moment.   As I walked around the bust, I was impressed with Bernini's skill - and thought.  Medusa's front part is already transformed into writhing snakes - but the back of her head still retains some hair.....this gives you the feeling you are witnessing her transformation as it is happening.  Chillingly beautiful.

In Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and the mythology it drew upon, Medusa was the mortal one of three beautiful sisters. After Medusa trysted with Neptune in a temple sacred to Minerva, the goddess punished her by rendering her and her sisters monstrous, with snakes for hair and faces so terrible that they turned any onlooker to stone. Perseus, equipped by sympathetic deities, would later slay her and use the petrifying power of her severed head as a weapon.

That's your Greek History Lesson for March 1st!  (Amanda, I thought of you when I saw this!)

Happy March everyone!


♥ Robin ♥


  1. just a beautiful bust. love that he took hard marble and made it look so fluid. we just got about 10 or so inches of snow! So I agree, March comes in like a Lyon.

  2. Wow, thank you for the story behind this beautiful bust!L!

  3. As a kid I loved Greek Mythology.
    Thanks for this story and the beauty of this special sculpture :)

  4. thank you for the art history and this stunning piece!

  5. another excellent post, robin. i love learning like this. the front and back of her hair gave me chills. imagine. i have clients who feel trapped like this....

    wishing you a super weekend

  6. wow - the hair/snakes thing is completely freaky and wonderful. Gorgeous post Robin

  7. this is so completely glorious and you KNOW how much i love this!! she is made of carrara marble on a PINK marble stand....even though it is a powerful and in some ways gruesome image, the rendering and the medium make her transcendent and lend her a unique beauty. you are a great teacher, robin - thank you for this mythology lesson!

  8. Yes, thank you. I didn't know this back story of Medusa,,,about she and her sisters.

    A truly gorgeous piece of work!

    I'm chuckling, since I have 3 beautiful sisters myself. We only worry about gray hair. Maybe we should be thinking about snakes. Ya think?

  9. I have always loved this piece, every time I have seen it no matter where she looks so vulnerable to me and usually when I have made that comment to whoever was with me almost invariably the answer has been "MEDUSA????"

    There is more here than meets the eye and that is the power of a well conceived and executed piece of art. When I saw it for the very first time I was too young and what impressed me most was the fact that it was actually made of one of the hardest marbles known and yet it was fluid, I could have swore that a draft could have actually moved the snakes or the hair on the back of her head.

    As I grew older I saw the regret, the loneliness, and that to me is what truly makes her to my eyes very vulnerable. Thank you love, this is a gorgeous post.

  10. Wow, I love that he captured the moment of change, very powerful. What a gorgeous sculpture.

  11. I was thrilled to see your pictures here. My good friend, Elaine, learned almost too late, of the Bernini at the Legion of Honor. She drove over on Sunday, the last day. Seeing it was a dream come true, for her.