Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Medusa in Zurich

I am just strolling out of a car park in Zurich this week, on my way to the marvelous Chagall painting exhibition at the Kunsthaus, when I see an eye-catching post. A young woman has has been decapitated and her head is placed on a circular plate. Spaghetti frames her head, like blond snakes emerging from her hair.

Elena or Medusa
 It is simply an advertisement for this DJ's show, "Elena zum Zmittag", on a popular local radio station.  If you visit the website of the radio station, you find that there are, in fact three such posters, each featuring a different DJ.  One of the DJs, the local celebrity Jonthsch, is a former student of mine.

Earlier this month I spent a few days in Florence with five of my students.  At the end of the trip I asked the students to name the one art work that made the deepest impression. One student picked Caravaggio's Medusa. He was impressed by its almost surreal hyper-realism. Caravaggio painted Medusa's decapitated head on canvas, mounted on a circular shield, the snakes of her hair coiling convulsively. In his recent biography of the artists Andrew Graham-Dixon describes the painting as "a work of such flourish and bravado that it has the look of a painting submitted for a prize." (Andrew Graham-Dixon, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane, Penguin Books, 2011, p. 157)

Caravaggio: Medusa
I don't know if the radio station deliberately referenced the Caravaggio work, but the connection seems clear to me and I like to think that it is an example of the memory provoked by an art work emerging in contemporary advertising.  What do you think?


  1. I would love to see some of these exhibits someday!!

  2. Hi Optimistic Existentialist,
    Well, if you do plan on visiting the Uffizi in Florence I recommend doing it in January - no lines.
    Thanks for your comment.