Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus Beheading Medusa
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Perseus Beheading Medusa 
Benvenuto Cellini  
Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence 
18 feet high 
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(bnvn´t chl-l´n) Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571) was an Italian sculptor, metalsmith, and author.  

"Medusa" was a Gorgon and originally a beautiful maiden, but she desecrated the goddess Athena's temple by sleeping there with Poseidon. Outraged, Athena turned Medusa's hair into living snakes and any man who looked upon her face would be turned into stone. 

From: The Columbia Encyclopedia: Sixth Edition 

(pûr´ss, –ss), Perseus in Greek mythology, was the son of Zeus and Danaë. His grandfather, Acrisius, had been warned by an oracle that his grandson would kill him and therefore he put Perseus (his grandson) and his mother in a chest and threw it into the sea. It drifted to Seriphus, where King Polydectes befriended the mother and child. After a time Polydectes fell in love with Danaë (the mother) but was embarrassed by the presence of her now full-grown son. He sent Perseus to fetch the head of the Gorgon Medusa, thinking that Perseus would die in the attempt.  

The gods, however, loved Perseus. Hermes gave him a curved sword and winged sandals, and Athena (who had her own run-ins with Medusa earlier) gave him a mirrorlike shield, and Hades a helmet that made Perseus invisible. Thus armed, Perseus slew Medusa. While fleeing the other Gorgons (Medusa’s sisters) Perseus asked Atlas for help. Atlas refused, and Perseus, by means of the Medusa head, promptly turned him into a mountain of stone.  

On his way home Perseus rescued Andromeda from a sea monster and married her. When he arrived in Seriphus, he killed Polydectes (that wicked guy that was making the moves on his   mother) and his followers. He then gave the Medusa head to Athena. He went with his mother and his wife to Argos. There, while competing in a discus contest, Perseus accidentally killed his grandfather. Thus the prophecy was fulfilled.  

Perseus was the father of Electryon, who was the grandfather of Hercules.  

  • Notes:
    John Singer Sargent
    Sketch of Cellini's "Perseus" 
    watercolor, Loggia dei Lanzi 
    French portrait painter/teacher
    c. 1900
    (Mother of Perseus) 
    Florence, Firenza Loggia
    C. late 1800's


    By:  Natasha Wallace
    Copyright 1998-2003 all rights reserved
    Created 1/08/2001
    Updated 10/24/2003