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Cellini's Perseus and Medusa: Configurations of the Body of State

Author: Christine Corretti
Publisher: Cleveland, Ohio : Case Western Reserve University, 2011.
Dissertation: Doctor of Philosophy Case Western Reserve University 2011
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Document : Thesis/dissertation : eBook   Computer File : English
Summary:
In one respect Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus and Medusa (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy) legitimized the patriarchal power of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici's Tuscany. The bronze statue symbolizes the body of the male ruler as the state overcoming an adversary personified as female, but the sculpture's androgynous appearance (the heads of Perseus and Medusa are remarkably similar) emphasizes the fact that Perseus,  Read more...
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Details

Genre/Form: Academic theses
Material Type: Document, Thesis/dissertation, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Christine Corretti
OCLC Number: 722814380
Description: 1 online resource (326 pages)
Responsibility: by Christine Corretti.

Abstract:

In one respect Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus and Medusa (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy) legitimized the patriarchal power of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici's Tuscany. The bronze statue symbolizes the body of the male ruler as the state overcoming an adversary personified as female, but the sculpture's androgynous appearance (the heads of Perseus and Medusa are remarkably similar) emphasizes the fact that Perseus, Cosimo's surrogate, rose to power through a female agency€- the Gorgon. Though not a surrogate for the powerful women of the Medici family, Cellini's Medusa may have reminded viewers of the fact that Cosimo's power stemmed in various ways from maternal influence. In this fashion the statue suggests that female power was palpable in the Medicean state. Under the Loggia dei Lanzi maternal power assumes, specifically, the form of Medusa as Mother Goddess. In the preceding context it is telling that additional works of art celebrating the duke's political greatness align Cosimo's image with maternal agency. The Perseus' androgynous nature problematizes the Greek subject's role as an epitome of virt & 249; (virility). Thus, the statue points up the contingent nature of patriarchal power, which in Cellini's day was synonymous with virt & 249;. I discuss the Perseus as a reflection of Niccolo Macchiavelli's theory that virt & 249; depends upon adversary in the form of Fortuna, a version of the Mother Goddess, for political purposes. The similarity between the heads of Cellini's Perseus and Medusa suggests that Cellini (as Perseus) identified with the Gorgon as a hunted figure. Thus, the statue reminds one of social, cultural, and legal restrictions imposed upon men who lived in Cosimo's Florence. Here, the cult of honor and virt & 249; bred more divisions in the absolutist state by perpetuating violence. Similarly, Cellini's statue implies that violence may turn against itself by appealing to the aggression of its viewers. My study concludes with an analysis of Duchess Eleonora di Toledo's image in art as Mother Goddess, a force who rivals the power of her husband, Cosimo I. Thus, the duchess' image ultimately served as Medusa's counterpart.

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