Cellini's Perseus and Medusa and the Loggia dei Lanzi

Configurations of the Body of State


Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa, one of Renaissance Italy’s most complex sculptures, is the subject of this study, which proposes that the statue’s androgynous appearance is paradoxical. Symbolizing the male ruler overcoming a female adversary, the Perseus legitimizes patriarchal power; but the physical similarity between Cellini’s characters suggests the hero rose through female agency. Dr. Corretti argues that although not a surrogate for powerful Medici women, Cellini’s Medusa may have reminded viewers that Cosimo I de’ Medici’s power stemmed in part from maternal influence. Drawing upon a vast body of art and literature, Dr. Corretti concludes that Cellini and his contemporaries knew the Gorgon as a version of the Earth Mother, whose image is found in art for Medici women.

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Biographical Note

Christine Corretti, Ph.D. (2011) is a specialist of early modern Italian art and author of a variety of books and articles, including Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa and the Loggia dei Lanzi: Configurations of the Body of State (Brill, 2015).

Table of contents

Prologue vii
List of Figures xvi xviii
1 The Story of Perseus and Medusa, an Interpretation of Its Meaning, and
the Topos of Decapitation 1
2 Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa : The Paradigm of Control 17
3 Renaissance Political Theory and Paradoxes of Power 57
4 The Goddess as Other and Same 92
5 The Sexual Symbolism of the Perseus and Medusa 104
6 The Public Face of Justice 109
7 Classical and Grotesque Polities 127
8 Eleonora di Toledo and the Image of the Mother Goddess 137
Conclusion 154
Bibliography 157
Index 173


All interested in the history and art of the Mediterranean, as well as scholars of anthropology, gender studies and political theory will find this study, which is suitable for academic libraries, highly informative.

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