Villino Ximenes (1900-02) was built for the Sicilian sculptor Ettore Ximenes (1855-1926), who lived and worked in Rome. Ximenes designed all the decorative details on the facade of his striking house and, unsurprisingly, one such detail is a relief of the Trinacria, the curious three-legged lady that is the symbol of Sicily.
The ancient Romans called Sicily Trinacrium, which means three-pointed, on account of the three promontories of the island.
The head at the centre of the three legs is that of Medusa, one of the three gorgons. Her hair took the form of venomous snakes and those who gazed upon her face turned to stone. Medusa was beheaded by Perseus, who used her head, which retained its ability to turn onlookers to stone, as a weapon, until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. Athena was the protectress of Sicily.
In classical antiquity the image of Medusa's head appeared in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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