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Perseus with the Head of Medusa

Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822). 1804–6. Marble.

Here, the mythological hero Perseus triumphantly presents his trophy, Medusa's head, to the world. Through this dynamic pose, Canova draws our attention to the sweep of Perseus's idealized body, which is framed by a drape falling from his left arm. Designed in competition with the great statues of antiquity, the figure possesses full musculature and well-proportioned shoulders, hips, and limbs. The Gorgon Medusa was feared for her ability to turn living men to stone. Here, Canova inverts this process. Deploying his renowned skill for manipulating the surface of marble, he has turned cold stone into warm flesh.

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