Hideous monster

Medusa is a figure from Greek mythology. When she was young and beautiful she aroused the anger of the goddess Athena, who took revenge by transforming her into a hideous monster, with large fangs and snakes for hair. Her appearance was so horrific that anyone who looked at her was turned to stone. She was eventually beheaded by Perseus.

Calamity of war

Charley Toorop based Medusa chooses the sea on a plaster head. She was furthermore inspired by a surrealistic photomontage by the photographer Florence Henri. This shows the head of a statue lying on a beach with the sea in the background. For Toorop, her painting of Medusa with the staring, soulless eyes symbolizes evil and the calamity of war. The dark colours reinforce the melancholic atmosphere of the scene.

New future

Nonetheless, Medusa also symbolizes the hope for liberation and a new future. At the time she was beheaded, Medusa was namely pregnant by Poseidon, god of the sea. Two drops of her blood fell into the sea, from which the giant Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus sprang. New life was created.