Sleeping Medusa

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)


Pastels and charcoal on paper

15.5 cm.

This work is "a mystery in the guise of a painting. Again Khnopff has struck out in new directions away from the trodden iconographic paths and has hit upon a new formula for his Medusa: no serpents for hair, no female body but an aquiline body with a woman's head. The lonely creature has perched for the night on a rocky outcrop. Her eyes are closed and she is seen in profile, two favourire motifs of Knopff's; here they emphasize the creatrure's introspection and utter isolation. The Medusa bird is a painted statement about the predicament of the artist. Whatever bodes ill or is menacing or close to death or speaks of quietness is a source of inspiration for the Belgian artist." — Andrea Domesle, pp. 61-62.

Compare this unusual version of the subject treated by Morris and Burne-Jones, and others with The Blood of Medusa, which includes the traditional snakes [GPL].