Midtown Manhattan will is the home to the seven-foot bronze gorgon Medusa. A sculpture titled “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” by Argentinean-Italian artist Luciano Garbati was installed in a park in front of the New York County Criminal Court. Harvey Weinstein was put on trial there. His conviction in March was marked by a triumph for the #MeToo movement.
On Instagram, Garbati wrote that this place was not chosen by chance, as cases of crimes related to violence against women are judged there. She also added that they are already in the final stages of work on the details of this sculpture, which has become a symbol of justice for many women.
The work reimagines Perseus with the Head of Medusa, a 16th-century sculpture by Italian Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini, which is on display in Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Italy.
According to ancient Greek mythology, Medusa was a girl from the temple of Athena who was raped by Poseidon. According to the myth, Medusa was a beautiful sea maiden with gorgeous golden hair, who knew how to predict the future and was distinguished by free will. Athena envied her beauty and was outraged by her liberty. And Poseidon, fascinated by the girl, began to pursue her in an attempt to take possession. Fleeing from a preoccupied Poseidon, Medusa tried to find refuge in the temple of Athena, but Poseidon overtook her there and abused her.
Athena enraged that her temple had been defiled, turned Medusa into a snake-haired gorgon whose gaze turned any observer to stone. With the help of the gods, the hero Perseus tracked down and beheaded Medusa. Cellini’s iconic sculpture depicts the Greek hero Perseus standing on the headless body of Medusa as he brandishes her head in triumph.
Medusa with the Head of Perseus offers Medusa a new perspective on this mythology, depicting a gorgon with the severed head of Perseus. Since the #MeToo movement, the Medusa has been reimagined as a symbol of the victim-blame that rape survivors suffer. Garbati’s statement says that triumph is impossible if you defeat the victim.
The project was hosted by the artist-led MWTH Project in partnership with NYC Parks and was available through April 30, 2021. The sculpture in front of the court sparked a heated debate on the Internet, as many praised the symbol of justice, while others questioned aspects of its creation and appearance.
Some made fun of the work, joking about the lack of pubic hair, which some thought must be snakes. Others have taken a more serious stance, demanding closer attention to the reason why a male artist has been given such a platform to discuss such a topic. And still, others argued that the mythology was distorted – for it to make sense, some said that the head of Poseidon should be next to Medusa, and not to Perseus.