According to ancient Greek mythology, Medusa was not always a monstrous beast with a petrifying gaze that could turn a man to stone.
She was only turned into what she is popularly known for after Poseidon stalked and raped her in Athena’s temple.
In a rage Athena refused to punish Poseidon for his attack and instead blames and punished Medusa for the crime of which she was the victim. Athena transforms Medusa into a vicious monster with snakes for hair and casts her away as a monster.
The Medusa With The Head of Perseus sculpture, created by Argentine-Italian artist Luciano Garbati, pictures Medusa Gorgo holding a sword and the head of Perseus – the man who originally killed her on the order of King Polydectes. It is a reversed version of a more famous statue – Perseus with the Head of Medusa, sculpted in the 16th century by Benvenuto Cellini and exhibited in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy.
The revised Medusa will be erected on Tuesday with the Medusa With the Head (MWTH) project team noting that the installation denounces victim-blaming and thus echoes the #MeToo movement.
whoa. a seven-foot-tall bronze sculpture of "Medusa With The Head of Perseus" will be installed across the street from 100 Centre St., Manhattan's criminal courthouse this weekend, a commentary on the #MeToo movement https://t.co/PXDsmhVWTY pic.twitter.com/OcjL2BImgJ
— Rachel Holliday Smith (@rachelholliday) October 9, 2020
In a statement on the exhibition, project team says that the seven-foot sculpture “inverts the narrative of Medusa, portraying her in a moment of somberly empowered self-defense.”
“Garbati’s sculpture speaks directly to the 16th Century Florentine bronze masterpiece Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini (1545-1554).
Through this work, Garbati asks “how can a triumph be possible if you are defeating a victim?”
This narrative of victim-shaming in stories of sexual violence echoes through time, and into the present day “me too” movement.
Garbati’s Medusa questions the mythic figure’s characterization as a monster, and investigates the woman behind the myth.”
After it was announced that the statue depicting the reversed version of the famous Medusa myth would be installed as an icon of justice and the power of narrative under the #MeToo movement directly across from the New York County Criminal Court, the location of high profile abuse cases including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial, , social media users quickly became embroiled in heated debate involving everything from #MeToo to interpretations of Greek mythology.
Opinions wildly clashed over myth interpretation and the appropriateness of glorifying Medusa killing Perseus was questioned, since Poseidon was her rapist, not Zeus’ son.
Is this woman familiar with the lore, cause why did she not do this to the man that actually raped her.
— Ultros (@Ultros0) October 9, 2020
Others pointed out ironically that it was in fact a woman – Athena the goddess of wisdom – who turned Medusa into the monster.
Some, describing themselves as rape survivors denounced the idea, saying that they would not believe that violence should be offered as a solution.
Saying this in a calmer voice: I am well and fully aware of the myth of Medusa, and I goddamn hate that this is being installed outside a courthouse.
I am a rape survivor. I do not want a sword. I do not want more violence. I am not an aggressor. I want *help*. https://t.co/SXodiqYOCJ
— Ana Mardoll (He/Him) (@AnaMardoll) October 9, 2020
Other tweeters offered their suggestions as to how they think the statue should be interpreted.
Medusa was raped, punished/cursed for her own rape, and then murdered by Perseus for harming men who came to harm her. He mounted her head as a trophy. A statue with her holding his head instead is an embodiment of women finally, finally *taking* the justice they’ve been denied.
— WestCoastMamaE (@westcoastmama_e) October 9, 2020
Many ridiculed those who missed the point that the statue is a reverse version of Cellini’s sculpture.
Medusa With The Head of Perseus by Argentine-Italian artist Luciano Garbati will be on view in Collect Pond Park, located on Centre St, Lower Manhattan, as part of NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program from October 13, 2020 – April 30, 2021.