Medusa's Gaze: The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farneseby Marina Belozerskaya
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The Tazza Farnese is one of the most admired objects from classical antiquity. A libation bowl carved from banded agate, it features Medusa's head on its outside and, inside, an assembly of Egyptian gods. For more than two millennia, these radiant figures have mesmerized emperors and artists, popes and thieves, merchants and museum goers. In this, the first book-length account of this renowned masterpiece, Marina Belozerskaya traces its fascinating journey through history. That it has survived at all is a miracle. The Tazza's origins date back to Ptolemaic Egypt where it likely enhanced the power and prestige of Cleopatra. After her defeat by Emperor Augustus, the bowl began an amazing itinerary along many flashpoints in world history. It likely traveled from Rome to Constantinople. After that city's sack by crusaders in 1204, it returned west to inspire the classical revival at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at Palermo. The Tazza next graced Tamerlane's court at Samarqand, before becoming an obsession of Renaissance popes and princes. It witnessed the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the turbulent aftermath of the French Revolution, and the birth of the modern Italian state. Throughout its journey, the Tazza aroused the lust of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Mongol rulers, consoled a heart-broken duchess, inspired artists including Botticelli and Raphael, tempted spies and thieves, and drew the ire of a deranged museum guard who nearly destroyed it. More than a biography of the world's most cherished bowl, Medusa's Gaze is a vivid and delightful voyage through history.
"Marina Belozerskaya has made a well-researched and welcome contribution to Tazza scholarship. With much direct evidence missing, she has still connected the dots of this artifact's remarkable journey." Amy Henderson, The Weekly Standard
"This imaginative narrative is an epic romp through history using the Tazza as connective tissue between empires and collectors over a 2,000-year span...More of a cultural history than an art historical analysis (and more fun to read), the book demonstrates the Christianization of Europe and the West through the reinterpretation of the Tazza's iconography." Publishers Weekly
"Of all the pitfalls to collecting, however, surely none is more treacherous than the sheer changeability of taste, since what is adored by one generation may well be discounted by the next. That is a point that Marina Belozerskaya decisively proves in Medusa's Gaze: The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese, which purports to be about an 8-inch-wide agate bowl carved with mysterious figures..." Dan Hofstadter, The Wall Street Journal
"Thoroughly researched and well documented, written, and illustrated, this book is an engaging read."Library Journal
"The Tazza Farnese is one of the most extraordinaryand beautifulart objects to have survived from the classical world. Medusa's Gaze tells its intriguing and dramatic story from the first century BC to the twentieth AD. A gripping and very surprising book."Mary Beard, Cambridge University
"With a good sense for both the scholarly and the sensational the author takes us through the history of the West's obsession with precious stones and gems, using as a key the probable history of one of the finest examples, from the days of Cleopatra to destruction at the hands of a museum attendant in 1925."Sir John Boardman, Oxford University
"[A]n excellent choice for inspiring nonprofessionals to become excited by the cultural history of ancient objects." American Journal of Archaeology
Meet the Author
Marina Belozerskaya is a cultural historian whose previous books include To Wake the Dead, The Medici Giraffe, The Arts of Tuscany, Luxury Arts of the Renaissance, and Rethinking the Renaissance: Burgundian Arts Across Europe.
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