The photos are the work of Damien Hirst, the Daily Mirror reported. Hirst, a leading member of the Young British Artists movement, became famous for works featuring dead animals in formaldehyde.
Rihanna was apparently happy with the photo shoot, uploading the GQ cover and other pictures to Instagram. The Barbados-born star is 25 -- the same age as the magazine.
She or someone on her staff wrote: "Medusa head on me like I'm 'luminati!!!!"
The cover shows her from the waist up, with her arms strategically covering her nipples while holding a large snake draped around her shoulders and a head full of smaller snakes.
The issue hits newsstands next Thursday, Oct. 31.