Head of Medusa

Artist: Cameo by Benedetto Pistrucci (Italian, 1783–1855, active England)

Maker: Mount by Carlo Giuliano (Italian, active England, ca. 1831–1895)

Date: cameo 1840–50, mount ca. 1860

Culture: Italian, executed in England (London)

Medium: Red jasper mounted in gold with white enamel

Dimensions: Overall (isible cameo): 2 1/8 in. (5.3 cm), 53.2 mm;
Overall (in setting): 2 11/16 x 2 11/16 in. (6.8 x 6.8 cm)

Classification: Lapidary Work-Gems

Credit Line: Purchase, Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ada Peluso, and Romano I. Peluso Gift, in memory of Ignazio Peluso, 2003

Accession Number: 2003.431


The grim but mesmerizing visage of Medusa, the Gorgon decapitated by Perseus, was a favorite motif in classical antiquity and frequently invoked in later periods. Pistrucci's precision of detail led to his appointment to cut dies for the coinage of the Royal Mint in London. After falling out with the mint, the Roman-born artist returned with undiminished success to his original occupation, cameo carving. He made this gem for the London dentist Samuel Cartwright, whose calling is reflected in Carlo Giuliano's frame incorporating the wings and snakes of Mercury's caduceus, the emblem of the medical profession.