Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa

Object Details


Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa


Sebastiano Ricci (Italian, 1659 - 1734)


Italian (Venetian)


about 1705 - 1710


Oil on canvas


64.1 × 77.2 cm (25 1/4 × 30 3/8 in.)

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In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus was famous for killing Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon whose grotesque appearance turned men to stone. This painting, however, shows a later episode from the hero's life. At Perseus's and Andromeda's wedding, their nuptials were interrupted by a mob led by Phineus, a disappointed suitor. After a fierce battle, Perseus finally triumphed by brandishing the head of Medusa and turning his opponents into stone.

Sebastiano Ricci depicted the fight as a forceful, vigorous battle. In the center, Perseus lunges forward, his muscles taut as he shoves the head of Medusa at Phineus and his men. One man holds up a shield, trying to reflect the horrendous image and almost losing his balance. Behind him, soldiers already turned to stone are frozen in mid-attack. All around, other men have fallen and are dead or dying. Ricci used strong diagonals and active poses to suggest energetic movement.

possibly about 1946/1948 - 1953

Ray Livingston Murphy, 1923 - 1953 (New York, New York), by inheritance to his mother, Ray Slater Murphy, 1953.

1953 - 1986

Ray Slater Murphy [sold, Murphy sale, Christie's, New York, January 15, 1986, lot 113, to Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.]


Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.


Christie's Review of the Season (1986), p. 21, ill.

"Acquisitions/1986." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 15 (1987), p. 185, no. 50.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 107, ill.

Les peintres du roi, 1648-1793, exh. cat. (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours/Musée des Augustins, Toulouse: 2000), pp. 140, 142, fig. 26b (under cat. no. 26).

Scarpa, Annalisa. Sebastiano Ricci (Milan: Bruno Alfieri Editore, 2006), p. 233, no. 258, pl. XXXIX, fig. 479.

Education Resources

Education Resource




Story Books

Students write stories describing action and publish them with illustrations in a book. Tied to Open Court unit Risks and Consequences.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Long-Term Unit