- Museum number
Carnelian scarab engraved with Perseus (Ferse) slaying Medusa.
The mythological scene is set on a groundline decorated with a tongue pattern and bordered with a row of dots. Perseus, identified by his winged hat (petasos), wears only a cloak (chlamys) around his throat and thrown back over his shoulders. The muscles of his body, especially of his torso and legs, are finely detailed as he grasps his sword by the hilt and blade, poised to cut off Medusa’s head. Medusa kneels at his feet, body facing his, but with her head twisted back to look upwards, her face contorted with protruding lips or tongue. She attempts to resist by grasping the sword hilt and his hand with her left hand. Her right hand, hanging by her side, clutches what appears to be a snake. She wears a tunic (chiton) with overfold, and patterned leggings or drapery stretched in folds across her legs.
- Production date
- late 5th century BC - early 4th century BC
Length: 1.60 centimetres
Width: 1.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Etruscan scarabs such as this are gemstones, usually carnelian, with one rounded side carved in the shape of a scarab beetle on a kind of platform and the flat underside engraved with a mythological scene. The vertical edge of the platform is decorated with a row of dentils, with a much smaller row above it. A hole 1-2mm in diameter has been drilled vertically through the gem, so that it could be pivoted on a wire as part of a ring or serve as a bead on a necklace.
Perseus’ unnatural pose, with his lower body facing one way and the action taking place on the other, is characteristic of the late archaic period (Richter 1968: 209). Perseus was a popular subject on Etruscan carved gems and he is often shown carrying off the decapitated head (eg. Richter 1968, no. 855, Zazoff 1968, no. 99). This Medusa lacks many attributes of the typical representations of Gorgons (i.e., the lolling tongue, wide staring eyes, and snakes as hair). Furthermore, the poses of both Perseus and Medusa in this scarab are more characteristic of those of Achilles and Penthesilea, the Amazon Queen. Medusa’s costume may include leggings with a diamond pattern (though due to the miniature size, it is hard to be certain), which is typical of depictions of the Amazons. It is not unusual for the Etruscans to mix myths and mythological themes (and in many cases, historical figures and events) in their art.
[L. W. Adlington in Bruschetti et al 2014, III.48]
Richter, G 'Engraved Gems of the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans' 1968-71, no.854.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2014 Mar 22 - 30 Sep, Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca e della Citta di Cortona, ' La Gran Bretagna e gli Etruschi '
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number