Doorknocker with Gorgon Head

mid 1500s
Overall: 25.4 x 19.7 x 6.9 cm (10 x 7 3/4 x 2 11/16 in.)
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Description

Venice was a center for numerous bronze founders who made elaborate doorknockers for palace doors throughout the city. Although utilitarian, these objects were meant to impress as works of art in their own right. The presence of snakes that coil from this fearsome head suggest that this is Medusa, one of the three demon sisters in Greek mythology known as the Gorgons. According to some legends, Medusa was an attractive woman who, after having an affair with the god Poseidon in Athena's temple, was transformed by the goddess into a serpent-haired beast. Her visage was so terrifying that anyone who looked at it was turned to stone. The hero Perseus was ordered to decapitate Medusa, and Athena subsequently placed the monstrous head in the center of her shield. The use of the Gorgon's head as an ancient motif and protective symbol to avert evil developed from this fabled act. Such literary and iconographic traditions were known to Renaissance artists, and the presence of a Gorgon head on a doorknocker almost certainly evokes its guarding function for a Venetian home.
Doorknocker with Gorgon Head

Doorknocker with Gorgon Head

mid 1500s

Italy, Venice, mid-16th century

Visually Similar Artworks

ArtLens App

Let the ArtLens App be your guide, featuring an interactive map, every artwork on view, and AR scanning. Keep track of your favorite artworks. Take a guided tour, or create your own. 

Download the App
background

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.