On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 545

The motif of the severed head of Medusa teeming with snakes became one of the most characteristic subjects for cameos. The image of the head perfectly suits the round field of a tondo. Artists were challenged to capture in the motif a perfect stasis between the macabre and the sublime. Generations versed in the classics knew that Perseus presented the head to the goddess Minerva and that it thenceforth embellished her breastplate. By implication, it served the wearer as a protective talisman, tacitly announcing the triumph of good over evil.

This Medusa, a decorative furniture mount, is relatively serene.

Mask, Gilt bronze, French

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