6 更多
9 更多

The Severed Head of Medusa

The Severed Head of Medusa
stamped with the artist's signature, number, date and foundry mark 'Damien Hirst 2⁄3 MMX111' (on the underside)
gold, silver, in artist's display cabinet
sculpture: 12 5⁄8 x 15 5⁄8 x 15 5⁄8 in. (32 x 39.7 x 39.7 cm.)
display cabinet: 94 ½ x 31 ½ x 31 ½ in. (240 x 80 x 80 cm.)
Executed in 2013, this work is number two from an edition of three plus two artist's proofs
White Cube.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2016.
Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. Damien Hirst, exh. cat., Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, 2017 (illustrated in colour, pp. 106-107 and 326; installation view illustrated in colour, pp. 364-365).
M. Squire, J. Cahill and R. Allen (eds,), The Classical Now, exh. cat., London, King's College London, The Arcade at Bush House & Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, 2018 (illustrated in colour, pp. 20-21).
Minerva Magazine, March/April 2018, vol. 29, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).
Age of Classics! L'Antiquité dans la culture pop, exh. cat., Toulouse, Musée Saint-Raymond, 2019, no. 4 (illustrated in colour, p. 199; incorrectly titled 'Medusa' and dated '2017').
Damien Hirst - Archaeology Now, exh. cat., Rome, Galleria Borghese, 2021, no. 37 (illustrated in colour, p. 252; detail illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, 2017.
London, King's College London, The Arcade at Bush House & Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, The Classical Now, 2018.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, 2018-2019.
Toulouse, Musée Saint-Raymond, Age of Classics! L'Antiquité dans la culture pop, 2019.
Musée d'Art Classique de Mougins, 2019-2021 (Inv. no. CL17).
Rome, Galleria Borghese, Damien Hirst - Archaeology Now, 2021.
Musée d'Art Classique de Mougins, 2021-2022 (Inv. no. CL17).


Claudio Corsi
Claudio Corsi Specialist, Head of Department


Executed in 2013, The Severed Head of Medusa is among the defining works from Damien Hirst’s celebrated project Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. An extraordinary meditation on art, myth and humanity, it stands as an icon of one of the twenty-first century’s most ambitious technical and conceptual artistic undertakings. In 2017, the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice were transformed into vast spectacles of wonder, filled with glistening artefacts supposedly excavated from the depths of the Indian Ocean after more than two thousand years. The hoard, Hirst’s story told, had once belonged to the legendary collector Cif Amotan II, whose precious cargo was shipwrecked near the ancient trading port of Azania. Blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, the exhibition raised pertinent questions about where we place our faith, suggesting that any encounter with art demands a certain suspension of belief. The present work’s gleaming gold surface forces us to confront this question head on, impelling us to submit to its illusion.

From pristine simulations of barnacles and coral, to the accompanying Netflix documentary detailing the excavation, the exhibition’s magic was wholly conceived. The catalogue contained entries from leading authorities, including the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, who wrote vividly of his encounters with the treasure. At the back of the book, historical notes purported to shed light upon the objects’ origins and significance. ‘Imbued with great apotropaic powers, the Gorgon—depicted here following her decapitation at the hands of Perseus—features repeatedly throughout the collection’, it explained, referring to the present work as well as Hirst’s depictions of Medusa in bronze, crystal glass and malachite. ‘The different versions emphasise the fluidity of Medusa’s character and the unique combination of themes she personifies ... Once severed, her head retained extraordinary transformative properties: Ovid relayed that it was Medusa’s blood, dripping from her neck onto twigs and seaweed strands, and still harbouring the power of petrification, that accounted for the existence of coral’ (D. Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, exh. cat. Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, Venice 2017, p. 326).

The present work is particularly notable in its appeal to a pre-existing legend. In Greek mythology, the snake-haired Medusa was one of the three Gorgons, whose gaze had the power to turn their onlookers to stone. Her likeness had been imagined time and again in art: from the sculptures of antiquity to Caravaggio and beyond. Hirst’s version, in this sense, was simply another chapter in her story, his sleight of hand adding a new dimension to the Medusa’s steely gaze. All impressions of the Gorgon, after all, had borrowed their inspiration from a handed-down story, its truth only half known. In the same vein, one might just as easily entertain the tale of Amotan, a former slave from Antioch who, between the mid-first and early-second centuries CE, built a fortune large enough to acquire an incomparable collection. Only the keenest observers would note that ‘Cif Amotan II’ was an anagram of ‘I am a fiction’; the name of the ill-fated ship, moreover—Apistos—translated to ‘unbelievable’ in Koine Greek.

Since the advent of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘readymades’, artists have repeatedly grappled with the question of simulacra. Andy Warhol repeated pre-existing images ad infinitum; his works, in turn, were immaculately replicated by Elaine Sturtevant. Jeff Koons conjured impossible treasures through precision engineering, while Banksy placed parodies of artworks in major museums to see if anyone noticed. Hirst’s Medusa—an exquisitely crafted illusion of something that never existed in the first place—sits within this trajectory. Built into the exhibition’s narrative, indeed, was a nod to the complexities of authenticity: the exhibition guide explained that Amotan’s collection of ‘commissions, copies, fakes, purchases and plunders’—some of which were awaiting restoration—were displayed alongside ‘a series of contemporary museum copies’ (Exhibition guide for Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, p. 3). For Hirst, who had previously suspended sharks in formaldehyde and turned medicine cabinets into shining temples, art and myth have always been two sides of the same coin. Here, we are prompted to take a stand, before—under the Medusa’s gaze—we are turned to stone.

更多来自 穆然古典艺术博物馆珍藏古代至现代艺术,第一部分