The marble bust of Medusa, tentatively attributed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, exemplifies his reputed expertise in sculpting. The character Medusa, known for her petrifying gaze in Greek mythology, is meticulously represented in this life-sized sculpture, measuring approximately 60cm in height and resting on a 24cm-wide base.
Believed to have been created around 1630-1640, during Bernini's mature period, the bust depicts Medusa with a maximally expressive demeanor, reflecting terror and allure concurrently. The precisely formed hair strands, appearing as if tossed by the wind, endow the sculpture with a dynamic sense of motion. Particularly noteworthy is the transformation of hair strands to snakes, precisely detailed to the point of eliciting unease.
Medusa's eyes, wide open in terror, coupled with her open mouth hint at a silent scream, adeptly capturing the torment associated with her fabled destiny. The nuanced delineation of her facial muscles augments the fear depicted in this piece.
The surface treatment of the marble, contrasting the smoothness of her skin with the rugged texture of the serpents, intentionally exaggerates the juxtaposition between human and monster.
The motif of Medusa, a figure encapsulating dramatic metamorphosis, aligns with Bernini's well-known preference for dynamically transformative subjects. Medusa's portrayal, contorted by agony, anticipates the modern conception of the grotesque, contributing to the bust's enduring allure.
Concerning the sculptor's identity, while there are technical and stylistic elements that suggest Bernini, solid evidence to support this attribution is lacking. The commission history and provenance remain ambiguous, stimulating a continued scholarly discussion.