6/16/11

Edward Burne-Jones, The Finding of Medusa


Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

Date: 1887
Technique: Oil on canvas

Number 4 in the Perseus Cycle

This picture, like other members of the series, draws upon the version of the Perseus legend that appears in William Morris's "The Doom of King Acrisius" from The Earthly Paradise.

And midst this wretchedness a mighty hall,
Whose great stones made a black and shining wall;
The doors were open, and thence came a cry
Of one in anguish wailing bitterly;
Then o'er its threshold passed the son of Jove,
Well shielded by the grey-eyed Maiden's love.
Now there he saw two women bent and old,
Like to those three that north he did behold;
There were they, sitting well-nigh motionless,
Their eyes grown stony with their long distress,
Staring at nought, and still no sound they made,
And on their knees their wrinkled hands were laid.
But a third woman paced about the hall,
And ever turned her head from wall to wall
And moaned aloud, and shrieked in her despair;
Because the golden tresses of her hair
Were moved by writhing snakes from side to side,
That in their writhing oftentimes would glide
On to her breast, or shuddering shoulders white;
Or, falling down, the hideous things would light
Upon her feet, and crawling thence would twine
Their slimy folds about her ankles fine.
But in a thin red garment was she clad,
And round her waist a jewelled band she had,
The gift of Neptune on the fatal day
When fate her happiness first put away.
So there awhile unseen did Perseus stand,
With softening heart, and doubtful trembling hand
Laid on his sword-hilt, muttering: "Would that she
Had never turned her woeful face to me."
But therewith allas smote him with this thought,
"Does she desire to live, who has been brought
Into such utter woe and misery,
Wherefrom no god or man can set her free?"

"The Doom of King Acrisius," I, 259-60

Source 1
Source 2

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