Perseus e Medusa di
Every morning the Tuscan sun rises above the narrow tower of Palazzo Vecchio situated at the head of the Piazza della Signoria. The tower reaches high into the sky to greet the golden orb as it pierces through the clouds to bask the Piazza with daylight by early afternoon. The beams sun the cobblestones and immerse the Loggia dei Lanzi at the right edge of the Piazza. Here, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the glow that glimmers forth from the meticulously shaped marble sculptures. But one statue does not reflect this same warmth. Perhaps you can feel what emanates from the bronze prize of the Loggia: a calm stillness that can freeze and leave you cold as if no sun has ever breached this barrier.
On a hazy Thursday morning in late April, Perseus was bid to bring back the head of a Gorgon. Whether Polydectes wished to send him to his death or simply wanted to test his strength and loyalty, Perseus did not know, but he did know that he could only complete this feat with assistance from the gods. He summoned the help of Hermes and Athena to guide him towards the nymphs, who could provide him with the tools to slay a Gorgon. The nymphs had in their possession the helmet of Hades that made anyone who wore it invisible. Perseus took the metallic helmet of Hades adorned with wings and placed it upon his heap of curly hair with distinctly soft locks. The helmet fit comfortably over Perseus’ head in two equal plates that joined in the middle forming a V over his curls. Two wings were mounted in the center of each circular plate, which were ribbed with hard buttons forming a semicircle around the wings at the core. Several alternate plates extended out from underneath the base of the helmet forming an outer circle that protected his head. Each wing arched backward as if an eagle were about to take flight from its perch.
Perseus continued his journey and encountered Mercury, from whom he received winged sandals. He strapped the miniature wings around his ankles with the tough leather straps and hard bronze buckles. The detailed feathers appeared soft yet powerful as the wings of an eagle; still each feather was clearly distinct and individually placed delicately among the wings that connected to the back of his ankle and stretched to the bottom of his heel. Mercury placed the harpe or bent sword in the right hand of Perseus. His right bicep was rigid and tight as his right hand clasped firmly around the menacing dark ivy colored sword that he held parallel to the ground. The sharp blade had a smooth bow towards the end and finished in a fiercely pointed tip. With the helmet floating above his rich curls, the vicious harpe in hand, and the angelic sandals tied around his ankles, Perseus began his journey, taking flight towards the ocean and the impending Gorgons.
Flying down upon the Gorgons, Perseus found them asleep. As he approached their sleeping bodies he noticed Medusa, the only mortal among the three sisters. This was the head that he must fetch. Medusa, once a beautiful maiden with gorgeous locks and an abounding charm that seduced even Neptune, had dared to compete in beauty with Minerva. Therefore, the jealous goddess deprived her of her charms and transformed her beautiful locks into a bundle of hissing serpents. She became a cruel monster, so frightful that no living thing could view her without being turned into stone. Perseus carefully soared above the Gorgons, and with a swift motion of the harpe, he beheaded Medusa.
On another April morning – Thursday the 27th – in 1554, the crowds assembled in the Piazza della Signoria of Firenze, anticipating the unveiling of a new statue by Benvenuto Cellini. It would stand on the left side of the entrance to the Loggia dei Lanzi adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio. And in an instant the creamy white cloth loosely draped over the misshapen figure was yanked away to reveal the dominating dark green bronze figure of Perseus.
Perseus looms powerfully over the body of Medusa, holding her freshly severed head in his fist, which is tightly clenched around the ferocious snakes that consume the skull. Grasped in his left hand, the snakes form a wriggling mass of jade that slither and wrap themselves around the tense hand of Perseus, striving to persevere with every last breath. Medusa’s expression is blank and numb, her mouth hangs partially agape, and her cheeks are ashen but faintly swollen and puffy. Her eyes remain half open as her muscle, arties, and veins dangle from the brutally sliced neck down to the left pectoral of Perseus’ chest. The innards, hanging in bunched clumps, sway slightly as the muscles of Perseus’ left forearm and bicep pulse with adrenaline as blood is pumped from his vehemently beating heart to the tips of his fingers.
The audience gasps. Some eyes slowly move from Medusa’s mangled neck across to Perseus’ unexultant stare while other minds race wildly, not able to focus on any single element. Every muscle on Perseus’ body is viciously flexed, and each protrudes creating distinct lines and tone across his chest, torso, and abdomen. His back is arched as his chest juts outward toward the Piazza as it heaves up and down with each breath of sharp air.
Strong but slender legs with solidly defined muscles stand taut above the mangled body of Medusa. The sure foot of Perseus stomps down upon her corpse and rests heavily upon her torso. Her body sinks into an ornately decorated cloth embellished with fringes and tassels on the extremities under the burden of Perseus’ mass from above. Her body lies crumpled in a heap, her knees bent back awkwardly, her left hand grasping her right ankle desperately, the agony no longer felt by her inert body. The sole of her right foot remains perpendicular to the ground as it vaguely hangs beyond the extent of the pedestal upon which her corpse lies, while her left foot uncomfortably rests on the knee of her right leg. Her breasts are exposed, facing skyward as she rests flat on her back lifelessly. The right arm hangs suspended in the air away from the right side of the pedestal. Her open palm faces the crowd in the Piazza della Signoria as her fingers dangle loosely, with her pinky and index finger remaining more extended and the middle and ring fingers bent nearer to the thumb.
His downward solemn gaze extends just beyond the body of Medusa to the decapitated neck where her slimy guts spill forth and cascade towards the ground under the influence of gravity. A trickle of blood runs down the knotted intestines and crashes in minute droplets below the pedestal upon which Perseus displays his prize. The intestines droop to where the top of the head would rest, should it not be held high above in the tough grasp of Perseus. Our hero Perseus rises above the Loggia dei Lanzi upon a white marble pedestal that contrasts his thick bronze, olive body as he continues to watch the life fade from Medusa’s remains. The blood pools below the base of the pedestal, and in the cobblestone street it creates small trickles as it seeps into the piazza. These small streams flow forth from Loggia and soak into the cracks of ground between each square charcoal stone of the street.
By this time everyone in the crowd has seen the cold green eyes of Medusa. The eyes so dark and menacing that one slight glance in their direction could turn any man into stone. They gawk in silence, frozen by the sight before them. The hush of the crowd remains, and an outsider can hardly tell whether it be because Medusa, even in death, has once again petrified her observers or because Cellini’s work has left the audience inert. Perseus displays his trophy and holds it static, this time frozen in bronze, high above the Piazza della Signoria for all to view – at their own peril – because for some the head of Medusa still can the steal life from your body and freeze you for a moment or two.