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Fragmentary Roof Ornament with Medusa
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Gift of Seymour Weintraub

Unknown
Etruscan, 550 - 500 B.C.
Terracotta
10 5/16 x 15 3/8 in.
75.AD.107

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The head of a monstrous gorgon forms this fragmentary antefix, or architectural decoration. Antefixes were roof tiles running along the eaves of a building that ended in an upright, decorated element. The gorgon served an apotropaic function, that is it warded off evil. The unknown artist has depicted the gorgon with a beard, bulging eyes, and fangs that frame her protruding tongue. Two shades of red paint enliven the monster. The bright paint and strong color contrasts helped increase the visibility of features when viewed from the ground.

Originally, the gorgon's head was framed by a sort of shell that is now mostly broken away. This feature, however, allows scholars to locate where this antefix was made and when. The shell framing element is a Campanian creation that begins around 550 B.C. Many Greek ideas, like the gorgon and the antefix, were adopted and modified by native artists in central Italy. Campania lay in the middle of the two major powers in Italy at this time--the Etruscans to the north, and the Greek colonies to the south--and had artistic connections with both. The relatively short, flat shape of the grooves in the shell indicates that this antefix probably dates to the period from 550 to 500 B.C.