Perseus and Phineas

In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus was famous for killing Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon whose grotesque appearance turned men to stone. This painting, however, shows a later episode from the hero's life. At Perseus's and Andromeda's wedding, their nuptials were interrupted by a mob led by Phineus, a disappointed suitor. After a fierce battle, Perseus finally triumphed by brandishing the head of Medusa and turning his opponents into stone.

Sebastiano Ricci depicted the fight as a forceful, vigorous battle. In the center, Perseus lunges forward, his muscles taut as he shoves the head of Medusa at Phineus and his men. One man holds up a shield, trying to reflect the horrendous image and almost losing his balance. Behind him, soldiers already turned to stone are frozen in mid-attack. All around, other men have fallen and are dead or dying. Ricci used strong diagonals and active poses to suggest energetic movement.

Sebastiano Ricci, Perseus Confronting Phineas with the Head of Medusa

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)

The Combat of Perseus and Phineas for Andromeda, from Les M├ętamorphoses, September 21, 1930, published 1931

© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York