The gorgon Medusa, best known for her hair made of snakes and her mythological death at the hands of the hero Perseus, was a popular subject in Ancient Greek art. Despite her often monstrous appearance, it was believed that images of Medusa had apotropaic powers and could ward off evil and bad luck. Medusa was not, however, always depicted as entirely monstrous; as is the case with this item, her snake-like hair and zoomorphic features are sometimes accompanied by a serene and pleasant face, alluding to the version of the myth in which her monstrous form was the result of having been cursed out of spite due to her beauty. The addition of the Herakles knot to depictions of Medusa was thought to add additional protective benefits to those typically offered by the image of Medusa herself, as well as carrying fertility and healing powers.
Apulian Blackware Guttos with Medusa
A high quality Apulian black ware guttos decorated with an image of Medusa in relief. The vessel has a sturdy base, a single looped handle and flared spout. The edges are decorated with ribbed incisions. The face of Medusa, which decorates the top of the vessel, is depicted with wild hair, zoomorphic features and a Herakles knot tied under her chin. Despite her unnatural features, her face has been finely and naturalistically moulded. The guttos was a vessel used primarily for refilling oil lamps, though they often also served a decorative purpose.
Provenance: From the Jon Lawton Collection. Previously from Brigantia, York, UK, 1990s.
Condition: Very fine, complete and intact.