West Pediment of the Temple of Artemis
Date ca. 600-580 BCE
Height height 9’2″
Provenance Corfu, Ionian Isles, Greece
Housed at Archaeological Museum, Corfu
Early Greek architectural sculpture appears to have a direct lineage to that of the Mycenaeans, which in turn looks to have been influenced by the Hittites. Here, the Medusa is depicted on the pediment of the Temple of Artemis; like the Lioness Gate at Mycenae, the figure is carved in high relief, so much so to the point of almost being completely separated from the original stone. Some scholars believe the Medusa was installed to ward off evil and protect the temple, while others believe it to be a show of the power of the divine, given its power over the heraldic creatures that flank her.
The sculptor employs a synoptic narrative in the pediment by incorporating the additional characters of Pegasus and Chrysaor, who, given the fact that Medusa is alive in this portrait, should not yet exist, according to Greek mythology. That Pegasus was the symbol of Corfu, and Corfu was a colony of Corinth, this incorporation was perhaps an attempt to remind citizens of their rulers. While the Medusa and flanking creatures fit comfortably in the main of the pediment, the other figure have been scaled down—the practice of making proper use of the temple’s roof space had not yet been perfected at this point.