You are here:
Perseus's Last Duty
Perseus's Last Duty
Oil on canvas
Framed: 125 x 178.5 x 8.5 cm (49 3/16 x 70 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.); Unframed: 89.4 x 142 cm (35 3/16 x 55 7/8 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange 2013.7
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
The reclining figure encircled by the griffin's tail at the far right may be the artist's self-portrait.
This painting depicts Perseus, a celebrated warrior from Greek mythology whose name derives from the Greek word "to waste, ravage, sack, destroy." Perseus’s most famous feat was cutting off Medusa’s head. Yet, the mass slaughter depicted here is not found in the ancient myth, but instead suggests a nightmarish allegory filled with private, enigmatic symbols, perhaps reflecting Beckmann’s experience of barely surviving two world wars. Traumatized while serving as a medical orderly during WWI, Beckmann later became the target of Nazi persecution. In 1947 he immigrated to the United States. Created in the aftermath of the Holocaust and under the Cold War threat of nuclear annihilation, this painting suggests a bitter critique of mankind’s propensity for destruction. Presenting Perseus in female dress subverts the hypermasculine glamorization of military heroes common to national historical myths.
To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.
The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is something not working on this page? Please email email@example.com.
Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar.