The Perseus Series by Edward Burne-Jones (continued):
Once equipped, Perseus sets out to find Medusa. He must use the polished shield given him by Athena in order to view Medusa safely since her reflection cannot turn him to stone. In The Finding of Medusa (shown above), he appears to be holding a mirror in his left hand. The sack for carrying her head is draped over his left forearm. Medusa (standing) is shown with her two Gorgon sisters, who are immortal and cannot be killed.
Once he has beheaded Medusa, Perseus must escape the remaining two Gorgons. He is aided in the effort by the helm of darkness given him by Hades. It seems that the artist chose not to depict the hair of Medusa or her sisters as snakes in these paintings. As such, he presents ugliness as more beautiful. This nuance, however, does not eliminate the sinister aspect of the three Gorgons. Whether the artist intended it or not, I personally see an additional element of implied tragedy. After all, Perseus is essentially killing Medusa and bereaving her sisters on a dare.
(to be continued…)