About This Artwork

Antonio Canova
Italian, 1757-1822

Head of Medusa, c. 1801

Plaster
H. 31 cm (12 .20 in.) (without socle); H. 52.25 cm (20.57 in.) (with socle)

Lacy Armour Endowment, 2002.606

The great Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova dominated the artistic scene in Rome at the turn of the 19th century. This bust represents a partial study for his marble statue Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa (1797–1801). The face of Medusa, a monster from Greek mythology, had the power to petrify anyone who beheld it. Canova expressed the horror of Medusa’s appearance and her death throes in this decapitated head. The sculptor initially modeled the work in clay, subsequently making a plaster mold of it. This preserved the freshness and spontaneity of the model while conveying a surface similar to the finished marble.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Bruce Boucher, “Head of Medusa,” Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies 29, 2 (2003), pp. 62-63 (ill.).

Ownership History

Sold, Sotheby's, London, 14 December 2001, lot 117, to Daniel Katz, Limited, London [according to Danny Katz]; sold to the Art Institute, 2002.




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