Personifying Evil

From the exhibit Exploring Objects, Fears, and the Future

Plaster cast of the “Ludovisi Medusa.”

Circa 1900. 21-17.

This is a high-quality replica of a marble head found in 1868 in a Roman house in Subiaco, Italy. That head, in turn, was a copy of a Greek sculpture from the 3rd-2nd century BCE. Although there is some doubt, it is widely considered a portrait of the dead Medusa, the Gorgon infamous for turning people to stone. Personifying evil as a concrete figure and not an abstract force may have made people, like the original sculpture’s Roman owner, feel less vulnerable to evil acts. The sculpture may even have been a talisman against evil forces.

Photo: David Garnick